St. Johns County considers buying out homeowners in Summer Haven after nor’easter damage

County officials estimate more than $1 million to repair erosion

St. Johns County leaders are trying to figure out how to fix a beach that was devastated during the recent Nor’easter just a few weeks ago.

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – St. Johns County leaders are trying to figure out how to fix a beach that was devastated during the recent Nor’easter just a few weeks ago.

This specifically involves Summer Haven which is southern St. Johns County just north of the Flagler County line.

During its Tuesday afternoon meeting, St. Johns County commissioners spoke about a significant breach of the ocean during a nor’easter that worsened erosion in the area.

“The ocean is taking the land back,” said one commissioner during the meeting.

Another commissioner called Summer Haven the “most volatile stretch of beach” in Florida and suggested that it’s time to consider buying out homeowners there.

County officials estimate erosion from the nor’easter in the Summer Haven area will cost more than $1 million to repair, and they said they need to get with state and federal agencies to come up with a strategy of “managed retreat” from Summer Haven.

Aerial video of Summer Haven shows there is a breach that’s formed along the coast because of the damage, the type of damage locals are becoming used to.

County commissioners spoke about a significant breach of the ocean during a nor'easter that worsened erosion in the Summer Haven area. (Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

“Well, Mother Nature has its way of doing its own thing. For example down the road here, these dear souls, it’s hilarious. They try and put sand dunes to fill in and just last week or the week before the ocean just washed it all away,” said Summer Haven resident Lois Purdy.

Locals told News4Jax on Wednesday roads have been washing away over the years and many homes are threatened. They expect things to get worse as the years go by.

“Down at the rocks, that’s gotten significantly bad,” resident Catalina Williams said. “And they try and cover it with sand after every single storm. And it’s kind of like, it’s hopeless. It always, you know, we’re going to have to come up as a community with something better.

The county commission issued a coastal storm event proclamation so homeowners could apply for state permits to repair their damaged sea walls.

Applications need to be submitted within 30 days from the initial coastal event. Properties built after March 17, 1985, are not eligible. A complete list of eligibility requirements is available here.

Two homes in South Ponte Vedra have failing sea walls to the point the homes are in danger of collapse. The commissioners approved $120,000 for repairs to the South Ponte Vedra Beach Pavilion.

“The nor’easter made the walkover and the pavilion in South Ponte Vedra Beach unusable for public access,” said Ryan Kane, director of St. Johns County Parks and Recreation. “The funding approved today will help us restore this public amenity for all to enjoy.”

Crews had been working on building back the dunes for quite some time, but much of that progress was washed away during the nor’easter two weekends ago.

St. Johns County staff has also contacted other agencies like the Department of Transportation and the Department of Environmental Protection for help fixing the problem.


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