Panama City Beach officials looking at new streetlights for sea turtles

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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB)– A new type of streetlight that could be installed along Front Beach Road will help pedestrians and the local sea turtle population.

“They are able to be dimmed as a whole or in sections, each light is independent on a fiber-optic network that is able to be controlled,” Councilman Michael Jarman said.

PCB Turtle Watch Director Kennard Watson said the biggest threat to turtles is artificial light.

“Of all the different kinds of lights that cause problems you know condos, homes, businesses- streetlights are the second most common source of turtles going in the wrong direction,” Watson said.

This year, the Panama City Beach area saw 47 sea turtle nests. Watson said the sea turtle population has increased significantly over the past decade and is pleased city officials are looking at making moves toward protecting the growing population.

Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) manager David Campbell is also looking at testing out amber lights in certain areas along Front Beach Road.

Campbell said those lights would be the most turtle-friendly, but the only concern is how it would impact conditions for drivers.

“We’re trying to balance between turtles and life safety issues between pedestrians, vehicles, and bicycles,” Campbell said.

Both lighting plans still need to be presented to the city council for approval.

If approved the smart lights would be installed along Front Beach Road from Richard Jackson Boulevard all the way to Highway 79.

As for the amber lights, Campbell said they must be first tested and approved by city officials before they could be incorporated into further city projects.

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