JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – Some Jacksonville Beach residents are angry that the dunes in front of their homes aren't on the schedule to be renourished by the Army Corps of Engineers in its latest project.
The work that began Monday on the beach will run from 16th Avenue South to 25th Avenue South. Beach access will be closed from 15th Avenue South to 27th Avenue South until the final phase of restoring dunes along the Duval County coastline has been completed.
But the Army Corps of Engineers determined the area south of 25th Avenue didn’t need the work, partly because it was rebuilt shortly before Hurricane Matthew hit.
The hurricane damaged dunes along the Duval County coastline, and as part of the dune restoration project, 5,000 cubic yards of sand will be placed in the area between 16th Avenue South and 25th Avenue South. That’s enough to fill one and a half Olympic-sized swimming pools.
But residents said despite the work done before the hurricane, the dunes south of 25th Avenue South were also damaged and need repair.
“If another storm comes, it's just going to probably go straight up to those houses I would assume, since the dune protection isn't there,” said Eileen Cavanaugh, who has lived in the area for 18 years.
Jacksonville Beach Mayor Charlie Latham said $7.5 million was given to the city for repairs to the dunes, which FEMA should cover. He said lack of money is not the reason the dunes south of 25th Avenue won't be repaired, but partially because that part of the coastline was renovated just before Hurricane Matthew.
Some residents said they agree with the Corps of Engineers' assessment and think their part of the beach will be OK.
“The dunes definitely took a huge beating, and they're smaller, but I'm not sure that we need more sand dunes here,” said Sofia Kirk, who lives on 31st Avenue. “I think nature will rebuild them over time. I don't know if it's necessary here, but 30th Street probably does need dune protection there.”
Others remain concerned.
“I just think if they're already renourishing, they need to continue to renourish what they did initially,” Cavanaugh said. “Unfortunately, they did it right before the storm hit, but I just think, they're here, they might as well finish the job to help protect all these people.”
Beachgoers won't be able to access the beach from 15th Avenue South to 27th Avenue South until the project is complete.
The city said more sea oats will also be planted from 8th Avenue North to the St. Johns County line to help restore the dunes in August.