That is how long it has taken the federal government to approve building pipe grates on the three pipes, each a quarter mile long that run through the ocean. Now we’re being told it will take two more years to build and test the grates.
AOL.com is reporting this is only the first step to address the issue. The crosshatched grate being tested will only protect about 27 percent of the turtles, but a smaller mesh will also stop water flow, the Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) said,
The grate is the first attempt since the plant opened 40 years ago to address the problem of sea turtles, divers, and other wildlife being sucked into the pipes. The three pipes run a quarter mile from the ocean and empty into a canal that runs along State Road A1A.
“St. Lucie power plant is very unique with the number of turtles it captures, just because of its location,” biologist Cody Mott said, according to TC Palm. “Not many other facilities have this many turtles or have to deal with these issues.”
Biologists think the sea turtles think the pipes are part of the reef which they use for protection, reports the Orlando Weekly. Most of the turtles suffer injuries on their trip through the pipes, and it is difficult to estimate how many are actually killed. The Endangered Species Act punishes violators with up to $50,000 in fines and a year in jail per each offense. But in Section 10 of the act, licensed entities, like FPL are exempt from prosecution.
Added to the problem is the new government rules issued in March this year, allowing the FPL plant to suck in 143 more turtles a year than the previous cap of 1,000.
A breakdown of the new rules details how many of each species can be killed yearly:
Loggerhead turtles – Plant can kill up to three and severely injure up to three each year.
Green turtles – Plant can kill up to five and severely injure seven each year.
Kemp’s ridley, hawksbill & leatherback turtles – Plant can kill or severely injure one of these three species every two years.
Smalltooth sawfish – Plant can severely injure one every five years. None can be killed.