Special Reports

State issues guidelines to protect Florida shorelines

TALLAHASSEE – As part of the state’s ongoing efforts to monitor and prepare for any potential impact from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in coordination with the State Emergency Operation Center (SEOC) is offering guidance for individuals, counties and local governments to protect their coastal communities.

“We have received numerous requests for permission to take proactive measures to protect Florida’s shoreline since the Deepwater Horizon crude oil release began in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20,” said DEP Secretary Michael W. Sole. “These supplemental efforts, in addition to the work being done by Unified Command, BP and state agencies, are important for preserving our precious beaches, and we want to ensure that all proactive measures are protective of Florida’s environment.”

While the desire to protect Florida’s beaches is understood, some solutions could do more harm than good. In light of the distance of the plume, placing booms, bails, fences and other absorption technologies along the state’s beaches could result in several additive problems rather than solutions. If the plume does reach Florida’s coast it would largely be sheen and weathered petroleum (in the form of tar balls or floating mats). The shoreline impacts seen with this type of oil usually involves mild staining of sand.

If there is weathered petroleum, it will have significantly changed its consistency to a more solid form (tar like with a consistency of Vaseline). The use of barriers (such as hay bales or sand bags) can actually interfere with removal techniques and generate difficulty for disposing of solid waste. Should individuals observe any evidence of oil on Florida’s coastline, they should leave the area and report the incident to 1-866-448-5816.

While the state appreciates the concern expressed by Floridians and the ingenuity of those seeking alternative measures to help protect the state’s shoreline, the following tips are offered to ensure that these measures are helpful and not harmful to Florida’s coasts, wildlife and water resources: