Deal to fund St. Johns County renourishment for next 50 years

County leaders sign multimillion-dollar agreement with Army Corps of Engineers

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VILANO BEACH, Fla. – St. Johns County leaders on Tuesday signed a multimillion-dollar deal with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to fund renourishment for the next 50 years. 

The major investment to keep the areas of South Ponte Vedra Beach and Vilano Beach vibrant is important to people who live there because it affects their properties. 

Along Vilano Beach, the damage done to the coastline can be seen, with the sand dipping down considerably. The deal signed Tuesday includes funding for the project adding an extra 60 feet of sand out to the ocean. 

"In the 32, 33 years I've been there, I've watched the sand go out and not really come back," said Vivian Browning, who lives along Vilano Beach. 

Browning and Sacha Martin, who has also lived along Vilano Beach for decades, said they've watched the erosion take more and more sand away each year, with recent hurricanes speeding up the process.

"When I moved here, you could easily drive two vehicles abreast at high tide," Martin said. "I think the county has finally realized having our beaches is very important."

Tuesday's $144.5 million deal funds renourishment for the next five decades, long after St. Johns County Commissioner Paul Waldron said he'll be gone. 

"It’s an option we chose and I told people when we voted on this, it will be up to future generations to see whether this was the smart thing to do or not," he said. 

The county is leaving the job up to the Army Corps of Engineers, which said to expect heavy equipment to start showing up in a year to begin moving sand from across the St. Augustine Inlet System.

"That’s where our sand source is," said Col. Andrew Kelly, with the Army Corps of Engineers. "And then we will start applying that to the beaches .. about 3 miles of beach."

The funding will mostly come from county tax dollars -- much of it tourist development tax dollars. The money is solely for renourishing the sand and providing a beach berm. As for homes that had foundations damaged by erosions, those homeowners are responsible for their own repairs. 

The main construction will start in May 2020 and should be complete by the end of that year. Renourishment will then take place every 12 years after that.

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