JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – With eyes around the world on Jacksonville’s beaches, some of the first to open amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many are noticing the pier rebuilding project is on pause.
The Jacksonville Beach Fishing Pier, which was damaged by Hurricanes Matthew and Irma in 2016 and 2017, respectively, is part of a nearly $10 million project to repair and rebuild the last 300 feet of the pier that was ripped off by the powerful storms.
But the News4Jax I-TEAM has discovered that an issue with government permits has grounded construction crews.
The pier was scheduled to be closed for two years for the rebuild. But the construction company can’t do anything right now, because the federal government hasn’t given the city the permits to move forward with the project.
It’s the focal point of Jacksonville Beach, but construction crews haven’t made progress on the pier in more than a month.
The Sky4 helicopter flew over the pier Tuesday showing cranes and construction equipment sitting idle, a temporary structure half-built next to the pier.
Jacksonville City Councilman Rory Diamond, who represents the beaches, says there’s a gap between one federal permit to the shoreline and another into the water.
“This is just government being slow. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has thousands of projects across the country that they’re working on it and this permit went as far as we should. It should’ve been seamless but we’ve got about a month and a half gap,” Diamond said.
Tom Goldsbury, the city’s building inspection chief, says it will probably take another six to eight weeks before the permit comes in.
The project manager from Hal Jones Contracting said he’s anxious to get it going and ready to get it completed.
"We did what we could do,” said project manager Garrett Harrison.
The U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers said in a statement:
“The delay is associated with a resolution of consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) under the Endangered Species Act…until the NMFS provides their Biological Opinion, the project cannot move forward.”
While some are skeptical the project will be finished in time, Diamond is confident.
“We’re still on time though,” Diamond said. “I’ve been very specific. We have to have this done in 2021 in the fall and that’s what’s going to happen.”
The pier was temporarily reopened for fishing and sightseeing in 2018, but that’s not the case right now. It’s completely closed for the remainder of the construction project.