Hurricane Matthew and Hurricane Irma were the first two hurricanes to hit the Jacksonville area with any consequence in many years. With them came an increased awareness of our changing coastlines. Areas like Jacksonville Beach and St Augustine have had plans in place for renourishment over the years, but Ponte Vedra Beach did not.
I met recently with Lori Moffett and Beth Angelo, two Ponte Vedra Beach residents involved in bringing the issues surrounding our beaches to the forefront of our government officials minds, to learn more about the restoration projects queued up.
The reconstruction of our beach has three potential phases with different requirements needed from the community, said Moffett, founding member of Friends of Ponte Vedra, a local PAC interested in making sure tax dollars are fairly appropriated throughout St Johns County and bringing awareness to our coastal needs.
Below is a breakdown of each project pulled together by Friends of Ponte Vedra to help explain where were are.
Note: Public access refers to the use of public beach access points like the Mickler Beach Access which is a heavily used access point.
PHASE I: FEMA’S REBUILDING OF PVB’s DUNE SYSTEM
- The FEMA dune project will rebuild Ponte Vedra Beach’s entire primary dune system which was wiped out in hurricanes Matthew and Irma. It equates to about $20-25M+ or over 300,000 cubic yards of trucked in sand for the nine miles of coastline in Ponte Vedra Beach. St Johns County Commissioners unanimously approved this project and a contract has been signed with contractor Continental Heavy Civil.
- Phase I involves replacing about 15% of the 2M cubic yards of sand to restore our beach to its 1980’s profile and will reduce our Phase II costs substantially – by about $6 million. Again, this is sand that will be trucked onto our beach. The area was analyzed by the local coastal engineering firm Olsen Associates. See here for the the analysis and photos of the 1980s profile.
TIMING: Phase I will begin in November with completion expected by the Spring.
REQUIREMENTS: There are no funding obligations for PV homeowners and ABSOLUTELY ZERO PUBLIC ACCESS REQUIREMENTS for this project.
PHASE II: COUNTY/STATE EFFORT FOR RENOURISHING & WIDENING PV’s COASTLINE
- The next step in the restoration of our coastline is a one-time renourishment of PV’s beach which we will term, “Phase II.” Ponte Vedra has been losing about 2-3 feet of coastline per year (per Olsen Associates) and if we continue to do nothing, the study suggests we will eventually lose our beach. Phase II is another critical step in Ponte Vedra Beach’s restoration timeline.
- The renourishment is a one-time sand dredging project from a sandbar that is five miles off the coast of PVB. Dredging will significantly widen and elevate PV’s shoreline and protect the new dune that is being put in place. Without a wider, elevated renourished beach, the new dune from Phase I may not last as long.
- The goal is to restore our coastline to its 1980’s profile. At that time, the beach was 100+ feet wider and significantly higher. Again, see here for the the analysis and photos of the 1980s profile.
- We all have worked very hard for three years to get Phase II permitted, and our dredging permits are now essentially in hand!
- Please note that the renourishment is mostly funded from our bed tax dollars, which the St Johns County Commissioners recently approved for PVB’s beach. Our bed tax funding allocation is about $1.2 million per year going forward. We also just lobbied for and secured another $1.7 million, after having also heavily lobbied for and receiving $7 million previously from St Johns County and the State of Florida. Other incremental funding sources will be from the State of Florida (we are presenting to the State of FL shortly for our 2022 funding request), while the Commissioners have mentioned a potential tax on residents.
TIMING: If all incremental funding comes through, it is possible that the renourishment could happen in 2022 after the FEMA dune is completed.
REQUIREMENTS: There are ABSOLUTELY ZERO PUBLIC ACCESS REQUIREMENTS for this project. This project would be funded by the State of Florida and local funding sources. There would be zero funding from the Federal government.
PHASE III: THE US ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS (USACE)
- The USACE recently chose a portion of Ponte Vedra Beach through South Ponte Vedra for a 3-year feasibility study (please note: that this is only a study covering the southern six miles of North Ponte Vedra to South Ponte Vedra) for a potential future 50-year beach management project. Our area was chosen out of thousands of possible projects nationwide. The USACE continuously restores coastlines in Duval county, Vilano, St Augustine, Flagler and numerous other beaches throughout Florida and the US. Under these 50 year projects, the USACE restores beaches right after storms and on an ongoing basis at zero to minimal cost to homeowners.
- If areas within the southern six miles of PV and also SPV with significant public access, such as possibly Micklers, were to qualify, it would be another four or so years for the USACE to decide whether to take on the project. Again, the project would possibly be only in those areas with significant public access. Please note that while Micklers is a very large public beach with hundreds of parking spots, it would require a USACE policy exception as it is only a single access point. Policy exceptions are very difficult to receive but we are trying.
TIMING: This is only a study at this poiont.
REQUIREMENTS: There would be PUBLIC ACCESS REQUIREMENTS for a 50 year USACE project and essentially all of PV would not qualify with the exception of possibly Micklers (as outlined above on a difficult to receive policy exception basis).