Friday, December 10, 2021

Amber LEDs in Nags Head to benefit nesting sea turtles

The Virginia Pilot recently ran the following article on a pilot streetlighting project in Nags Head, North Carolina. Without knowing more about the selected lights beyond that they are "amber LEDs" or the details of the town's lighting regulations, we cannot say for sure that they are dark sky compliant or align with the IES/IDA Values Centered Lighting Policy.  But it still is an encouraging example of decision-makers engaging on lighting issues.

(The Virginia Pilot is subscription-based but a subscriber provided the following copy):

By Kari Pugh Correspondent

A pilot light project of Dominion Energy and the town of Nags Head aims to make Outer Banks beaches more friendly to sea turtle hatchlings.

In late November, Dominion crews began installing amber LED lighting at town beach accesses following a review of town lighting regulations at the request of the Nags Head Board of Commissioners.

“There was general concern about outdoor lighting [and] protecting sea turtles,” Nags Head Mayor Ben Cahoon said. “[Our] staff was looking at all those issues, and this emerged.

“All environmental issues, including lighting, are really [a] high priority for our town and our board. So once we became aware of the possibility, the board was able to give direction and say, ‘Yes, we want to explore this.’ ”

Outer Banks beaches from the Virginia-North Carolina line to Nags Head usually see about 30 turtle nests each season, with each containing about 100 eggs.

Hatchlings will move toward any light once they’re above ground, which means they can head the wrong way toward hotels, homes and streets instead of the ocean.

“The thinking is the moon, stars, the downward slope of the beach are all factors,” said John CeCe, president of the Outer Banks Network for Endangered Sea Turtles, known as N.E.S.T.

“Light is an important factor for them to get into the water. This is a great first step for us.”

Accesses with new turtle-friendly lights include Gulf Stream, Gallery Row, Abalone, Blackman, Bladen, Curlew and East Tides Drive.

The power company and town are testing a few types of lights before choosing the best for the rest of the town’s 42 public beach accesses, said David Elliot, a Dominion technical engineering consultant.

Chief town planner Holly White said the officials were already looking at light trespass, glare and “just a general concern about lighting” when Dominion approached the town about the specialty lights.

The town has historically been very committed to a dark night sky,” White said. “This will be beneficial not just for humans but for nesting turtles and birds.”

Kari Pugh,

Saturday, May 1, 2021

New IDA - IES Outdoor Lighting Policy Guidance: Comprehensive Decision Making = Better Outcomes

The International Dark-Sky Association's Board of Directors recently passed a resolution aimed at a chronic problem: lighting decisions (particularly LED streetlight conversions) typically ignore most facets of quality lighting and continue to increase glare, light trespass, and skyglow.  IDA asserts that the interplay of five key principles "must be considered in the design, installation, and use of outdoor lighting, and that treating the principles in isolation from one another is insufficient to address the glowing global problem of light pollution".  

The Values-Centered Outdoor Lighting policy frames Five Principles for Responsible Outdoor Lighting, which address whether lighting is justified and which ensure that it is targeted and shielded, that it is of an appropriate illumination level, that it employs adaptive controls, and that it is not too blue in color. Implementation of the five principles is more fully discussed here and you can also read the original resolution. 

This initiative is a collaboration of IDA and the Illuminating Engineering Society, which sets standards and recommendations for outdoor lighting.  Virginia IDA encourages citizens to use these resources in educating elected officials, local planners, and other decision-makers.  We deserve less glare, less light trespass, and less polluted night skies! Quality lighting exists with an ever-expanding market--we need to insist on it. 

Virginia Adds Two More Dark Sky Parks

 Two Virginia state parks---Sky Meadows in the northern Piedmont and Natural Bridge in the central Shenandoah Valley--recently received IDA designation as Dark Sky Parks.  Virginia is now home to a total of five Dark Sky Parks (Staunton River State Park, James River State Park, and Rappahannock County Park are the first three). 

You can read the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation's press release here

The Roanoke Times ran a story  as did The Fauquier Times

You can find IDA's press release on the IDA website

A Dark Sky Park designation does not imply that the skies over that location are pristinely dark. In fact, both these parks are in regions where development, and light pollution, have dramatically increased and spread in the past few decades.  Rather the designation indicates relatively dark skies that meet a minimum standard for night sky observation and reflects the park's dedication to protecting the park's nocturnal environment.  

Learn more by visiting IDA's Dark Sky Places conservation program. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Rappahannock County's Night Sky Conservation Initiative Steady and Strong

Rappahannock County is home to one of Virginia's three IDA-designated Dark-Sky Parks (believed to be the smallest by size) and its biggest voluntary night sky conservation community efforts.

This update appeared in the January 7, 2021 issue of  Rappahannock News

Pole light replacement

The Rappahannock League for Environmental Protection (RLEP) launched its free pole light replacement program in February 2018 as part of its Saving Dark Skies initiative to reduce the amount of light pollution in Rappahannock County. 

Since then, educates the league’s Torney Van Acker, RLEP has been involved in replacing over 230 unshielded lights with dark sky compliant lights at residences, businesses, churches, schools, the library, fire halls and public areas. 

The generous support of the Piedmont Environmental Council's Krebser Fund for Rappahannock County and other donors allows these replacements to be offered to county property owners free of charge.

“In 2021, you can still do your part to protect our night sky while ensuring sufficient lighting for safety and security,” writes Van Acker. “The replacement fixtures focus the light downward on targeted areas while saving energy and money. Our replacement fixtures use 60% less power and have a longer design life than traditional lighting. All replacement lights are installed by qualified electricians at no charge to the property owner.”

The voluntary program is available at no cost whether the pole light is leased from Rappahannock Electric Cooperative (REC) or is privately-owned. If you have an older style leased light, call REC at 540-727-2168 and request the free replacement with a dark sky compliant model. If you have a privately-owned light to replace, contact RLEP at 703-250-7943.

Comprehensive Plans for Two Virginia Localities Now Include Night Sky Conservation

In the past year and a half, the City of Staunton in the central Shenandoah Valley and Rappahannock County in the northern Blue Ridge and Piedmont both included language acknowledging the importance of curbing light pollution in their updated Comprehensive Plans. 

Staunton's Comprehensive Plan 
 includes references to dark skies and community friendly lighting standards. 

Rappahannock's Comprehensive Plan--just adopted on December 7, 2020--notes the value of the county's night skies as a natural resource.

Both documents are searchable using the CTRL+F function.  You can go directly to pages 62 and 86 of Rappahannock's plan.  In Staunton's Goals and Objectives, see pages 1-1, 1-2, and 1-9.