74ºF

Project to rebuild dunes on hold after contractor leaves

Company scheduled for another project in Savannah, will return May 1

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – A multimillion dollar project to pump sand back onto Jacksonville's beaches after Hurricane Matthew is now on hold for the next five months.

The Army Corps of Engineers is overseeing a beach renourishment plan in Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach and Atlantic Beach. But the company the agency hired left the area because it was contracted for another job, and Atlantic Beach and parts of Jacksonville Beach still need work.

More than half of the dunes were washed away by Hurricane Matthew.

“The dunes did exactly what they are supposed to do,” said Jason Harrah, a project manager with the Army Corp of Engineers. “They sacrificed themselves to protect the structures behind and to prevent that storm surge from hitting those communities.”

The Army Corps of Engineers had already been working on a beach renourishment program and had the equipment to rebuild the dunes but lost ground after Matthew.

Jacksonville leaders voted to pay an extra $6.5 million to keep the dredging company in Northeast Florida to replenish the sand and rebuild the dunes in Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach and Atlantic Beach.

The contractors used giant pipes to take sand off the ocean floor about 7 miles off the coast in federal waters and pump it to the beaches.

photo

The project is a little less than halfway done but stopped this weekend because the dredging ship is needed for a project in Savannah.

“Patience is key,” Harrah said.

He said the contractors will be back to finish the job May 1, and it could take up to a few months after that to complete.

“It's not ideal, but the key is that we want to get the beaches built and get the dunes reconstructed prior to the next hurricane season,” Harrah said. “And we are committed to do that.”

Beachgoers said they’re surprised engineers have built back so much of the shore already, and they’re eager for the beaches to get back to normal.

“Actually, I am impressed. To see the damage initially, it was leveled. It looks like it would take a long time,” beachgoer Bryan Ruth said. “It's worth the wait, I guess, to close down the beach for a little while.”

There’s an additional million dollars in the budget to plant new sea oats to help keep the dunes in place.

Engineers are urging people to stay off the dunes and the sand piles, because that will only cause problems and slow the project down.

To learn more about Duval County's Beach Renourishment Project, visit http://olsen-associates.com/duval.


About the Author: