St. Johns County declares erosion emergency

Oceanfront residents ask for help as erosion nears their homes


ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Crews began working Thursday not long after the St. Johns County Commission declared a local state of emergency over coastal erosion in South Ponte Vedra and Summer Haven.

Residents affected by erosion that has come within feet of the back door of their oceanfront homes can now begin applying for permits from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to build temporary structures to keep the erosion from getting worse.

The county engineer said the DEP requires that the erosion must be within 20 feet of the houses, and some areas have 12- to 15-foot drop-offs that are within 15 feet of houses.

The state of emergency only includes 10 houses for the time being. In a meeting Thursday, a few people spoke, but two live just outside the area covered by the declaration. They are concerned that their homes may soon be in danger if they can't get a permit for the structure.

Chuck Herklotz has watched his back yard wash away due to heavy waves, wind and rain over the last couple of weeks. He was at the emergency commission meeting Thursday morning and is glad the work has begun. He got a permit for work on a temporary wall Thursday afternoon.

"We're very anxious and disappointed that it took so long, but we are kind of relieved that we have the temporary wall going in, and we are hopeful that we will have the permanent wall going in shortly," Herklotz said.

The Herklotz's beach access ramp used to take them about 30 feet from the end of their yard out onto the beach. Now, because of erosion, it's more than 60 feet from their yard to where that ramp took them, and the ramp is gone.

"I felt really devastated about what we lost out there," Marge Herklotz said. "You know, we're at a point where its gone, so I am just ready to look forward to moving forward and having this finished and moving forward with it."

The state of emergency declaration does not help the homeowners cover the cost of the temporary or permanent walls, but they say that just having the immediate protection from further damage is helpful enough.

"The fear was that I was just going to keep losing my land. That's it, and that it wouldn't stop," Marge Herklotz said. "That's all I saw for the last week is that it kept going and going. I had no idea when it was going to stop. Now that the wall is going up, I can sleep."