Supporters of Palm Beach County Reef Rescue's campaign
to have a federal protection zone for elkhorn and staghorn coral
extended through Palm Beach's shoreline have sent a flurry of e-mails to
Town Manager Peter Elwell's office.
As of Friday evening, the town had received at least
66. Many are form letters, but some were individually written.
Last fall, the National Marine Fisheries Service
designated an area of ocean floor from the Florida Keys to the Boynton
Beach Inlet a critical habitat for those types of coral. Reef Rescue
maintains staghorn coral are found north of the Boynton Inlet and wants
the zone expanded north 15 miles to the Palm Beach Inlet.
The town opposes the designation because it would
increase the length of environmental reviews for beach renourishment
projects while not adding significant protection for the coral,
according to Penny Cutt of Coastal Systems International, a consultant
to the town.
The Fisheries Service is reviewing Reef Rescue's
petition and will make public its intentions on Jan. 6.
Palm Beacher Elizabeth Dowdle, Raphael Clemente, an
urban planner with West Palm Beach; and residents of Coconut Groves,
Lantana, Lake Worth and other spots in the state are among the dozens
urging Palm Beach not to fight an expansion of the protected area.
"I understand there is a significant problem with
beach erosion in this town, but I think there are more ecologically
sound, albeit more expensive, ways to handle the situation. Please do
what you can to protect what little underwater environment is left,"
wrote David Terry of Sebastian.
"Any town that will not take responsibility to protect
their reefs is a town I do not want to visit and spend my free time and
funds!" wrote George Kenney of St. Cloud. "Please protect the staghorn.
It is one of the most majestic of corals that we can see in the state of
Llywd Ecclestone, head of the town Shore Protection
Board, said both goals — protecting coral and rebuilding the town's
beaches — can be accomplished. "The town and the Shore Board's position
is based on the best scientific information available," Ecclestone said
Friday. "We want to protect the environment even as we protect the
In an Aug. 26 letter to the Fisheries Service's
regional office in St. Petersburg, Palm Beach Public Works Director Paul
Brazil argued that extending the zone to the Palm Beach Inlet is not
justified because staghorn corals are found infrequently north of the
Boynton Beach Inlet, and as such, the region in question does not meet
the guidelines for critical habitat as defined by the Endangered Species
Jennifer Moore, a natural resource specialist with the
St. Petersburg office, told the Daily News earlier this month that the
criteria for designating an area a critical habitat requires more than
sporadic examples of a given species.
— Staff writer William Kelly contributed to this
Please keep those emails going to the town!
Click here to send email to Palm Beach town manager.