By Jane Smith
The busy beachside intersection of State Road A1A and Atlantic Avenue faced the prospect of going dark on March 1, the start of turtle-nesting season, after Florida Power & Light said it could not install turtle-friendly red LED lights by then.
FPL and Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission also are working on approving amber lights by summer’s end to quell concerns about darkness on the rest of the 1.1-mile municipal beach.
City staff and FPL worked quickly in February on an agreement to replace seven newly installed white LED lights with red ones on poles near the corner of Atlantic and A1A, said Richard Beltran, company spokesman.
“The utility has two red LED lights in stock and ordered the remaining five from the manufacturer,” Beltran said. “It won’t be possible to have the red lights installed by March 1. We are working as quickly as possible.”
The red LED lights are considered turtle-friendly and can remain illuminated throughout the year. The white LED lights will be turned off from March 1 through Oct. 31 during sea turtle-nesting season.
The FWC approves the lights along the beach to protect sea turtle hatchlings. Once hatched, they are often disoriented by bright lights at the beach, including the glow from white LED lights.
The seven lights were chosen by the city and FPL to enable them to be swapped quickly, Beltran said. The city wanted the red LED lights to be installed so that they can remain lit during the turtle-nesting months. Otherwise, the beach would be dark eight months of the year.
But the Beach Property Owners Association members want to see a safer stretch for the entire municipal beach, which has parking spaces on the east side of A1A.
“The Delray Beach leadership has now accepted the option to have red lights installed rather than let this area go dark for the eight months of the turtle season,” wrote Bob Victorin, association president. “If a decision was made, as has been suggested, to provide only seven streetlights covering a few blocks north and south of Atlantic Avenue, that would not be acceptable to us.”
The association wants to see “the entire length of A1A from Casuarina Road to the north end of the beach have street lights to provide pedestrian and automobile safety, as well as security and protection for the residents of the many condominiums and home sites located on the west side of A1A,” Victorin wrote.
FPL and the FWC agree they are working to approve amber LED lights.I t might not be until late in the year when those lights are installed, Beltran said, which would remove red lights from the discussion.
Delray Beach Mayor Shelly Petrolia was not aware that only seven white LED lights would be replaced near the Atlantic Avenue intersection.
“I hope that the entire strip of A1A along the city beach could have the amber LED lights,” she said.
Jim Smith, a Delray Beach resident who chairs the bike and pedestrian safety advocacy group SAFE, said, “Adequate street lighting remains a major safety and security issue on most streets and neighborhoods throughout Delray.”
Delray Beach had its own amber fixtures on FPL poles for many years. Last August, FPL decided it wanted to have its own fixtures on its street lights and asked Delray Beach to choose the lighting type along the beach.
The choice was red LED lights that could stay lit throughout the year or white LED lights that would be turned off during nesting season.
The City Commission picked white LED lights after staff said the red lights would not provide enough illumination at night. The white LED lights were installed in early January.