Posted on September 29, 2016
By Tiffanie Reynolds, jacksonville.com
Duval County beaches are getting a face lift this fall as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers bring in about 650,000 cubic yards of sand in an effort to slow shoreline erosion.
The Duval County Shore Protection Project started in mid-September and will continue until November. The project spans from Ponte Vedra Boulevard and Duval Drive in Ponte Vedra Beach to 18th Street in Atlantic Beach.
Crews from Army Corps of Engineers and its contractor Great Lakes Dredge and Dock will work between two to three city blocks of beach a day. Sand will be dredged 7 miles off of Neptune Beach and pumped to the project site via pipeline. On the beach, bulldozers and other heavy construction equipment will push and shape the dredged sand to the beaches’ original design.
Once completed, the project will widen the beach berm between 20 and 60 feet and raise the elevation of the beach by about three to five feet. Construction is estimated to cost $13.57 million, and is funded in partnership with the city of Jacksonville, Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Duval County. Funds for renourishment are 38.4 percent locally and 61.6 percent federally.
This is the sixth time that the project area has been renourished since its initial construction from 1978 to 1980. The last shoreline renourishment was in 2011.
The project was established in response to severe beach erosion along Northeast Florida beaches between the 1950s and 1970s. Every five to six years after completion of the initial project, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages renourishment of the original site. Susan Jackson of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District said that period of time is the normal erosion period for the beaches, as calculated by the engineers of the original project. It’s up to the area’s local sponsor — Duval County — to keep an eye on the beaches and contact the Jacksonville District if it sees erosion developing.
If there’s any major storms the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers works more closely with the local sponsor to investigate the state of the beaches. If there aren’t any storms and no major erosion has been reported, the Jacksonville District will assess the beaches a year before the end of the erosion period to see when renourishment will be needed.
Renourishment construction will run 24 hours a day, seven days a week. During this time nearby beach residents will be able to hear machinery backup alarms and general construction noise. The beach will still be open to visitors, with the contractor only temporarily closing 1,200 feet of the beach at a time. The project will also close the public parking area at 16th Avenue South to store and move construction equipment on and off the beach. Other beach parking may be temporarily closed as construction moves north along the beach.
These reoccurring renourishment projects help reduce the economic, environmental, infrastucture, human health and safety damages of tropical storms and hurricanes. The additional sand prevents beach erosion underneath buildings along the coast during and after these storms. Renourishment also provides more sand for endangered sea turtles and shorebirds to nest and helps to restore habitat for several species of costal animals. Restored beaches also boost tourism in the area.
“With the shore protection project, it actually puts that space back between humans and what they’re [sea turtles] doing,” said Jackson. “So turtles can still, especially where we have the dune areas and the grass areas, make their way up the beach. The human encroachment has kind of made it much more limited for the wildlife to use the same beaches. So, with the engineered beaches there’s bigger areas for us to share with wildlife.”