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Army Corps Considering Renourishment for Vilano, South Ponte Vedra Beaches

Posted on March 16, 2016

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is tentatively recommending shoreline renourishment for part of Vilano Beach and South Ponte Vedra Beach, but those plans could change.

The corps recently released a nearly 200-page report on its website, outlining a “tentatively selected plan” for the part of the coastline that’s been studied. The vulnerability of State Road A1A is a key part of the discussion.

The Corps of Engineers looked at ways of reducing coastal damage risks for about 9.8 miles of beach out of about 42 miles of St. Johns County’s coastline — 3.8 miles in South Ponte Vedra, 3.7 miles in Vilano Beach and 2.3 miles in Summer Haven, according to an email from the corps.

The tentative plan, which could change based on public input, “includes beach and dune nourishment within the Vilano Beach area and a small portion of the South Ponte Vedra Beach,” according to the email.

The plan is to build a 60-foot berm extension as well as maintenance of existing dunes “along 2.6 miles, approximately from the southern end of the Seranata Beach Club to San Pelayo Court.”

If approved and funded, the corps expects nourishment to be done every 12 years.

“Initial construction would use about 1.3 million cubic yards of material and the periodic nourishments would use roughly 866,000 cubic yards each,” according to the corps.

But the project would be costly, and it is not clear whether it would get enough financial support to get off the ground.

The cost estimate is $66 million. Federal dollars would pay for 22 percent of initial construction and about 17 percent of the nourishments, according to the email. The rest of the funding would have to come from non-federal dollars.

The plan is in the public comment period until April 4. A decision by the agency is scheduled for May. Following that, the plan would go to the civil works review board in January. The final stage would be a report from the chief of engineers in May 2017, according to the email.

The vulnerability of State Road A1A to erosion in the area is one factor in the tentative plan to nourish beaches. The road is part of a hurricane evacuation route.

During a storm event, the road starts to erode underneath, said Susan Jackson, spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District.

“So what you don’t want [is] two or three days into a tropical storm, for instance, for that road to collapse,” Jackson said.

Neal Shinkre, public works director for St. Johns County, said the study is the corps’ project, though the county has partially funded it. He said the plan is to brief the County Commission on the study.

If the study is finalized and the project is recommended for funding, officials will evaluate it like other capital projects, he said.

Shinkre said previously that the process began with the areas being designated as critically eroded. And more than 10 years ago the County Commission supported working with the corps for the renourishment feasibility study for the critically eroded areas.

St. Augustine Beach already has an agreement with the corps for renourishment.

Vivian Browning, president of the Vilano Beach Main Street group, said residents of the area and to the north have seen funds for renourishment going to St. Augustine Beach, and that has been a concern.

Vilano Beach is one of St. Johns County’s critically eroded areas, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Residents in Vilano Beach and north have seen erosion and some homes compromised, Browning said.

“When the northeasters come or if we have a major hurricane, it could undermine some of the houses,” she said.

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