I am writing to you to express my support for the DNR's comments regarding the negative effects that many of the changes proposed by the Jekyll Island Authority (JIA) in the state park's Beach Lighting Ordinance could have on sea turtle nesting habitat and hatchling survival.
I know that the JIA has said the proposed changes would not weaken the lighting ordinance, but I think a number of the amendments would do just that. In that regard, I am particularly concerned about the provisions that 1) change the definition of "beach" in a way that would remove some sea turtle nesting areas from the habitat governed by the ordinance; 2) reduce the restrictions on light emanating from hotel room balconies; 3) allow unshielded lights to be in hotel rooms; and 4) exempt hotel parking lots and underwater pool lights from the ordinance.
I understand that representatives from the DNR and JIA will meet in coming weeks to discuss the concerns triggered by the proposed changes in the Beach Lighting Ordinance. When you meet, I hope the DNR will hold fast to the recommendations its representatives have made so that the ordinance is not amended in a way that would allow more artificial light to illuminate Jekyll's beach and degrade sea turtle nesting habitat. I realize that the JIA might prefer an ordinance that is convenient for its hotel partners and for the JIA to enforce, but easing restrictions on beach lighting is an unacceptable way to achieve that end.
I am very grateful for the DNR staff's commitment to protecting sea turtles and for the wonderful work done on Jekyll Island by the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. I hope sea turtle advocates at both the DNR and JIA can work things out so that Jekyll Island State Park's Beach Lighting Ordinance can serve its intended purpose.