Should rebuilding dunes after Matthew be part of renourishment?

Supporters argue adding to project now will save money later

By Chris Parenteau - Reporter
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JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. - The cleanup from Hurricane Matthew continues across Northeast Florida and will for months.

As the beach renourishment project in Jacksonville Beach goes on, there is a push to make the rebuilding of the dunes a part of that project as a way to save money.

Crucial repairs are needed for the sand dunes that took a hard hit from the storm.

Damage could have been much worse had the dunes not been there to protect the community.

VIEW: Work agreement to add dune rebuilding to beach renourishment

The restoration dredging project is scheduled for completion in mid-December, which could save money on the dunes rebuild.

Army Corps of Engineers project manager Jason Harrah said it's important to get the dunes rebuilt.

"Those dunes sacrificed themselves. They eroded out and did exactly what they are supposed to do," Harrah said. "Yes, there are a couple of areas where they did breach, but ultimately the structure itself and its entirety stayed together and sacrificed itself to prevent all of that additional flooding and loss of life that could have occurred if it wouldn't have been there."

The Army Corps of Engineers sent a memo to the city with a cost estimate of $7.5 million to rebuild the dunes. That would be an addition to the current contract, which would save the city time and money as opposed to having to bid out a new contract and bring back the equipment after it leaves.

City Councilman Bill Gulliford agrees adding the project in now is a good idea.

“Thankfully the administration is working hard to try and get the dunes restored as part of the current contract with the contractors out there doing normal maintenance on the beach and restoring sand," Gulliford said. "If we can do that it saves a lot of money.”

Gulliford said that the cost of simply mobilizing the dredge that is out there now is $4 million, so if the city waits and chooses to do the dunes later, that will be an additional cost. He said at the city level, the city council would be the one to approve the addition to the contract. At the state level, he believes it would be up to the governor.

For people living at the beach, the hope is that the project gets done as quickly as possible.

“The dunes will get back to their original state,” Chris Budhram said. “The more proactive locals are around the area the better it is for the beach itself.”

“It's sad when you walk down the beach, and boy is it a mess. But I mean, it's going to take time,” another woman added.

Harrah said the breaching of the dunes isn't unexpected in a storm of Matthew's magnitude, but that's why it's important to rebuild them quickly. They are there for that protection again if another storm comes through.

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