St. Johns County beach renourishment projects: Where they stand, what’s in the works

File photo from Nov. 11, 2022.

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – The director of St. Johns County Emergency Management gave county commissioners an update Tuesday on the various beach renourishment and restoration projects that are in the works — both in the short- and long-term.

The county’s 42 miles of beach lost 1.9 million cubic yards of sand from Hurricane Ian. Officials haven’t yet calculated the sand lost from Hurricane Nicole. By comparison, Hurricane Matthew in 2016 washed out 1.3 million cubic yards of sand.

The county is still finalizing its application to FEMA for funding restoration efforts. If approved, FEMA would pay 75%, the state would pay 12.5% and the county would pay the remaining 12.5%.

Emergency Management Director Joe Giammanco gave the commission thumbnails on eight areas of the county that need attention. Three projects could begin next year, while the others are long-term. Projects and potential costs are where they are listed:

  • Ponte Vedra Beach: $40-million state and local restoration project could start in 2023
  • Vilano Beach south from Serenata Beach: Army Corps expected to start work in fall of 2023
  • Anastasia State Park south to Ocean Hammock: Army Corps expected to start work in 2023
  • South Ponte Vedra Beach: There’s a long-term feasibility study by Army Corps, but Giammanco said he’s learned the Corps is changing its cost-to-benefit ratio, and if the Corps figures it would have to spend $90 million dollars to acquire private easements, then it would be a no-go.
  • Vilano Beach to the St Augustine Inlet and Porpoise Point: No federal funding yet secured; could cost $10-15 million, including a sea wall for Porpoise Point
  • Butler Beach from SR-206 south to Fort Matanzas: Long-term project being assessed
  • Summer Haven North and Summer Haven South are both potential FEMA projects. Giammanca said a managed retreat remains an option there, but there’s no funding source identified for home buyouts

Several Ponte Vedra residents spoke out during the meeting about the FEMA work that’s already underway, where restoration efforts are based on easements granted by other private landowners. They complained about damage to the properties, constant noise and truck traffic. They also said the Geotubes that were installed near Mickler’s Landing are not only eyesores since they’ve been exposed by erosion, they’re public safety risks.

County commissioners acknowledged that they’re in a tough fight against beach erosion and there is no easy or inexpensive solution.