‘That special feel’: New legislation aimed at protecting southern Brevard County beaches

More protections could be coming to Brevard’s Barrier Islands.

A new bill, HB 1489, making its way through the legislature would make certain beaches in Brevard an area of critical state concern. It would apply to the southern boundary of Melbourne Beach extending south to the Sebastian Inlet State Park.

"The south beaches are unique. It’s a relatively undeveloped area," said Thad Altman. He’s an Indialantic state representative who’s sponsoring HB 1489.

In Southern Brevard, the roads are rural, and the beaches are bountiful. It looks quite a bit different from the northern parts of the county.

"It has a different feel. It kind of reminds you of the way Brevard used to be, and we want to keep it that way, not only those who live there but those who visit there, we want to have that special feel," Altman added.

The area is also home to critical natural resources that could be at risk if development moves in.

"The south beaches, for example, are the largest loggerhead sea turtle nesting area in the world. It is a world-class loggerhead sea turtle nesting area," Altman said. "What happens there could affect the species globally."

Other species at risk are manatees.

"There has been a catastrophic loss of seagrass which is manatee's primary source of diet in the Indian River Lagoon, so up to 90% of seagrass loss in some areas," said Kim Dinkin who’s a senior conservation associate for Save The Manatee, an organization fighting to preserve and protect the beloved sea creature.

Seagrass is still growing on the southern shores, and Dinkin says this designation is a step in the right direction for long-term restoration.

"Any way we can preserve our shorelines and preserve seagrasses, that will obviously help manatees so designating that as an area of critical concern for the state would be important," she added.

The discussion is underway as Florida state representatives try to manage growth while preserving the environment. If approved, the Brevard Barrier Islands would join other areas like Key West with this special designation.

As of Friday, Altman’s bill has only one more committee stop in the House. In previous hearings, it passed unanimously.