Residents in the city of Treasure Island in Pinellas County were quite surprised when Duke Energy flipped the switch after installing new road lights during a road construction project. Like Fort Myers Beach, Treasure Island is a barrier island. And like Fort Myers Beach, the turtles need protection.
During that construction project, Duke Energy installed white LED lights so bright, not only were the turtles facing disorientation, residents in the area felt like they were living under spotlights. That’s the issue barrier islands face with the challenge of prioritizing pedestrian and traffic safety and protecting the turtles.
Because of the safety issue on Gulf Boulevard in Pinellas County, shutting off the lights during turtle season was never an option. The lights had to be left on all year long, to the detriment of the turtles. On Fort Myers Beach, lights are turned off, prioritizing the turtles over public safety.
Stacy Boyles is the Assistant Public Works Director for the City of Treasure Island. She knew something needed to be done to correct the Duke Energy error. As she explains in our interview HERE, the City worked with FWC, FDOT and Pinellas County to find the best light to protect the turtles, one that was field tested by FWC to prove it worked.
A section of Gulf Boulevard, just a few hundred feet from the beach, was equipped with 8 amber lights. Those lights (to the right) passed the test. Another 88 lights will be installed to complete the change-over to Amber by the end of August.
Treasure Island did not hire any consultants to advise them on what needed to be done. Boyles told us her department worked directly with all the agencies involved to find the best light. Fort Myers Beach is now on its 3rd lighting consultant for the same project. This latest firm will be paid up to $180,000 to recommend a solution to the town council by September. The consultants appear to be leaning toward some sort of dual light, amber during turtle season and white during non-turtle season. Public Safety committee chairman John Goggin says the best solution is for the lights to be uniform all year.
There are some involved in this project who believe FPL already has the amber lights needed to protect the turtles, and the residents, in their portfolio, and FPL would cover the majority of the costs to install those lights.
Listen to our 12:37 interview with Stacy HERE.