In 2011, when it was discovered that the Northeastern beach tiger beetle, a threatened species, used Bay Creek beaches as its habitat, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service produced a moratorium against raking to remove debris such as seaweed, grasses and trash. Raking was suspended when the F&WS Enforcement branch placed the management of the Home Owners Association on notice that cleaning the beach is a violation of law subject to criminal prosecution and heavy daily fines for continued violations.
About a year-and-a-half ago a group of Bay Creek’s residents asked management to reengage F&WS to get a portion of the beaches cleaned while still maintaining a proper environment for these beetles. This led to meetings last year, between a small group of residents and Bay Creek’s management and the F&WS. Due to this dialog, the F&WS has recently given Bay Creek permission to clean the vegetation on the beaches between the dune line and the water; F&WS notes that this growth may actually be detrimental to the tiger beetle habitat. Additional information on properly maintaining the beaches will be coming from F&WS in the next few months.
FULL TEXT RESPONSE FROM US FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE
Thank you for your patience as we have been working through the Bay Creek requests. To enable you to move forward with some of your requests, we are addressing vegetation removal and beach restoration in this message and will address the establishment of “resort beaches” in separate correspondence.
We have reviewed the project plan description received on September 2, 2015 and the report titled “Current Status of the Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetle at Bay Creek and Management Recommendations” dated November 2, 2015. The following comments are provided under provisions of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1531-1544, 87 Stat. 884), as amended.
The extensive vegetation growth in and around the breakwaters at Bay Creek may be negatively impacting habitat quality for adult Northeastern beach tiger beetles (Cincindela dorsalis dorsalis) [tiger beetles] and may limit the available habitat for larvae. While it is common practice to plant beach grass behind breakwaters to increase the stabilization of the shoreline, this practice is likely detrimental to tiger beetles because encroachment of plants toward the lower beach can eliminate potential larval habitat.
Vegetation removal can be completed on Bay Creek beaches without the likelihood of take of tiger beetles. Removal of grasses, weeds, and other vegetative materials growing outside of the defined dune system is allowed at any time without a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permit provided the following restrictions are implemented:
•Utilize hand removal techniques or other methods that rely on hand-held equipment (e.g., potato pullers or short-hooked hand tools).
•Minimize the use of herbicides. Restrict herbicide use to situations where other methods are not successful.
•Do not use heavy equipment to transport vegetation off the beach. Restrict transportation alternatives to small utility vehicles and trailers.
To maximize efficacy of vegetation removal operations, avoid mechanized cutting equipment (e.g., weed whackers and rototillers). Mechanized cutting equipment is likely to leave pieces of vegetation behind that can re-establish and spread.
Areas of the beach on or near Bay Creek could be restored using dredged sand. However, proposals for beach restoration utilizing dredged sand will require review by the Service on a case-by-case basis such that projects details (e.g., sand placement locations, placement techniques, sand grain size) can be analyzed to determine effects to tiger beetles. Additionally, we would like to work cooperatively on the planning to avoid and minimize direct and indirect effects to adult and larval tiger beetles. To begin this process, Bay Creek should work directly with the Norfolk District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Technical Support Section – Keith Lockwood – 757-201-7004) to determine the availability of dredge sand.