Palm Beach County’s new erosion-fighting sand transfer plant at the South Lake Worth Inlet comes with an environmental lookout.
Inlets, like the manmade inlet between Manalapan and Ocean Ridge, block the natural north-to-south movement of sand along Florida’s East Coast.
The county’s new plant sucks sand from the north side of the inlet, pumps it through a pipe stretched over the waterway and fires the sand through a large black discharge pipe aimed off the shoreline south of the inlet.
But what’s good for beachgoers can be a threat to endangered sea turtles that lay their eggs on beaches near the plant.
To avoid hurting turtles, the county has a "turtle surveyor" walk the beach each morning during turtle nesting season.
Before pumping starts, the surveyor makes sure there aren’t any turtles on the beach or hatchlings trying to make their way to the water, said Leanne Welch, of the county’s Environmental Resources Management department.
Pumping is put on hold if turtles are the beach, she said.
"This is an important sea turtle nesting beach," said Welch, who handles shoreline protection for the county. "The plant operator waits every morning for the beach to be clear."
New turtle nests can be relocated to safer sections of the beach if found soon after the eggs are laid, Welch said.
Local officials Thursday celebrated the opening of the new plant at the South Lake Worth Inlet.
The plant cost about $2.6 million to build – part of about $7.4 million in recently completed improvements to the inlet’s jetties and nearby Bird Island.
The plant can move about 200 cubic yards of sand per day, with plans for redistributing about 100,000 cubic yards of sand per year. That’s enough to fill about 17,000 dump trucks a year.
Sea turtles have been dealing with a sand transfer plant at the South Lake Worth Inlet since 1937. The inlet was the sight of the first sand transfer plant of its kind in the world.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times