Posted on September 5, 2022
Decades after neighbors first broached the subject, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has picked a company to dredge debris that’s choking stretches of Jacksonville’s Fishweir Creek.
Jacksonville-based Underwater Mechanix Services LLC was awarded an $8.2 million contract to carry out an aquatic ecosystem restoration that hinges on removing sediment that has settled in the creek for at least a half-century.
The creek “has been decimated over the years,” said Stephanie Freeman, who lives near where Little Fishweir Creek and Big Fishweir meet between the Avondale and Fairfax neighborhoods before entering the St. Johns River.
“There is a significant amount of muck,” said Freeman, who said her family likes kayaking the creek.
“It can be beautiful, but the water’s shallow and “a lot of the time you get stuck in muck,” she said.
Sediment flowing into the creek with rainwater from the surrounding neighborhoods has covered the creek bed with sediment and made it harder to sustain submerged vegetation, like the eelgrass that manatees feed on.
“Sediments now covering the creek bottom need to be removed and immobilized and tidal flushing needs to be re-established in order to bring the waters back to meet habitat requirements for the mammals, fish, birds and vegetation formerly found there,” counseled a 2018 Corps report that said “many species of undesirable ‘weedy’ plants” were taking over shorelines.
It’s an old problem. City officials had begun looking for money to start planning to dredge the creek in 1998 and the Corps had picked up the question by the 2000s, drafting a series of plans that had to weigh outcomes against the ability to compete for funding.
Once recommending creation of a marsh island and extensive replanting of native species, the Corps’ plan has been scaled back to focus on dredging to restore the historic flow of water.