Jacksonville, Fla. – A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredging project is placing sand on critically eroded areas of Vilano Beach; however, the project will not cover as much of the beach as originally anticipated.
The sand placement is using material dredged from the Intracoastal Waterway (IWW) and the St. Augustine Inlet. The federally authorized channels are routinely maintained for navigational safety purposes.
Channel surveys completed prior to Hurricane Matthew estimated about 250,000 cubic yards could be dredged from the IWW and St. Augustine Inlet. Based on recent construction surveys, however, it appears that Hurricane Matthew removed much of the shoaled material naturally and, consequently, less material remains available in the channel. This reduction in volume will reduce the overall length of the project.
Originally the Corps and the Florida Inland Navigation District hoped to dredge enough sand to place along 10,000 feet along Vilano Beach. The revised quantity will still protect some of the most critically eroded areas; however, the sand placement may only reach 3,000 feet of shoreline starting from the south end of the beach. The initial high estimate helped ensure that the Corps had property easements for as much work as possible if sand was available.
“The Corps, Florida Inland Navigation District, and St. Johns County left no stone unturned to ensure that all the dredged sand would go to Vilano Beach rather than to the previously contracted placement site at Anastasia State Park,” said Project Manager Jason Harrah. “It’s unfortunate that Mother Nature (through Hurricane Matthew) removed much of the material which, in turn, reduced the amount of shoreline we could place sand on.”
The Corps now estimates that the dredged material will get placed on the shoreline from San Pelayo Court north to about Carcaba Road (monument R-117 to R-114). Beach placement is set to end May 1.
"We thank the local community, city and county for their incredible support to move this project forward. Although we’re not able to place as much sand as hoped, we are grateful this area is receiving some much needed sand and will offer relief to critically eroded areas," said Corps IWW Project Manager Lacy Pfaff.
Pfaff and Corps Project Manager Jason Harrah said about eight months of work was compressed into two months to change the project sand placement to Vilano Beach, which was a huge effort to make this successful.
"It’s the first time we are able to utilize regional sediment management practices on this particular navigation project that results in beach placement for Vilano Beach. We’re learning what’s required to combine two navigation projects to make this beach placement effort work. It could not have been this successful without the monumental efforts of the community and our partners,” Pfaff said.
“It’s still a win-win project,” Pfaff said.
Harrah is the lead project manager for dredging the St. Augustine federal channel and also leads the St. Johns County Coastal Storm Risk Management (CSRM) Project feasibility study.
He says it’s important to note the difference between a “navigation dredging with beneficial use project” versus a “beach renourishment project”. Recent efforts at Vilano Beach falls into the “dredging with beneficial use” category.
“Under this scenario, we dredge until the federal channel is cleared of shoal material. The volume of sand retrieved determines how far we can place along the beach. We’re not authorized to go outside the channel to increase the length of beach placement. In beach renourishment projects, the opposite holds true – we determine the length of beach renourishment needed, and then dredge enough sand to meet that need,” Harrah said.
The St. Johns County CSRM Project feasibility study recommends beach and dune restoration in a small portion of South Ponte Vedra Beach and much of Vilano Beach – including the stretch of Vilano Beach that was initially targeted for sand placement under the current channel maintenance dredging projects. This project, once implemented, will fall into the “beach renourishment” category and means the Corps will have the opportunity to place sand in all of these areas. The CSRM project was recently approved by the Corps Headquarters in Washington, D.C., and will be sent to Congress where it will await authorization.
“If all goes well, this project could be implemented as early as 2020 with the placement of approximately 1.3 million cubic yards of sand,” Harrah said. “We have been working hand in hand with St. Johns County and truly appreciate all the outreach completed by the county. Although the dredging project fell short for initial volumes, this early coordination will be vital towards construction of the beach renourishment project in the future.”
Media: For more background information on this effort, please go to www.saj.usace.army.mil, Media, News Releases, and look for St. Johns County Vilano Beach.