Leaders work to get funding, start rebuilding St. Johns County's beaches

Hurricane Matthew caused estimated $150 million damage to county property

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – There is a big plan to bring St. Johns County's beaches back to normal months after Hurricane Matthew.

The storm, which hit in early October, caused an estimated $150 million damage to county property.

Local leaders are now working to get the funding and start rebuilding the beaches that were heavily damaged.

Hurricane Matthew did a lot of damage to St. Johns County's 40 miles of coastline. The wind and the waves washed away a lot of the beach, ripping that sand out into the ocean, and the dunes, while many of them are destroyed because of the storm surge.

County leaders believe it will cost $60 million to get things back up to par.

"That is a big project for us," St. Johns County's public works director, Neal Shinkre, said.

Shinkre said they're in the planning and assessment phase, trying to find out the most effective way to restore the beach and other county properties.

"Most of that is the sand volume that we lost, but there are several other projects out there," Shinkre said. "We have infrastructure that has been impacted -- roadways, roofs, fire stations, parks and rec areas."

Local lawmakers are now trying to maximize the funding they can get for the project. As the plan stands, the county will pay $30 million and the state will pay the remaining $30 million.

But some legislators hope the state will chip in 75 percent.

"Should residents be concerned?" News4Jax's Vic Micolucci asked.

"No," Shinkre said.

The people News4Jax spoke with Wednesday said while the work is very expensive, it's necessary.

"Just for the future," said Cheryll Stotsky, who is visiting from New York. "I think it is always worth rebuilding."

"I think it is really important, especially because we are a big tourist attraction and that is what keeps money coming into our city," said Jeffrey Warring, who lives in St. Johns County.

If all goes according to plan, work could begin in a few months.

The county already paid $18.5 million to remove the storm debris. Officials are hoping FEMA and the state will reimburse some of the costs.

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