County Commission OKs renourishment of St. Johns beaches

Local funds will match state, federal grants for S. Ponte Vedra, Vilano Beach

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – St. Johns County Commissioners voted 4 to 1 Tuesday to proceed with a $39 million beach restoration project for South Ponte Vedra and Vilano Beach. 

State and federal grants will fund $25 million of the project and oceanfront homeowners are responsible for the remaining $14 million. More than 100 residents who spent an hour in the middle of the workday at the commission meeting backed the project.

"It is time to move ahead with beach re-nourishment for the north beaches," one resident said.

"We can’t afford not to do this if we care about the future," said another.

"I am one of the homeowners who voted yes -- 94 percent of us voted yes," a third homeowner told the commission.

The proposed Army Corps of Engineers Project includes a 50-year beach restoration and a one-time dune restoration. Many of the dunes were washed away during Hurricane Matthew, leaving many houses perched precariously on the edge of a cliff of sand.

"Although I don’t live on the oceanfront currently, I could if we don’t address this problem here pretty soon," another man told the commission.

The only concern expressed was how the local money will be funded. They want to make sure the $14 million in local funding is not diverted from other county programs, like recreation, arts or tourism development.

"Our tourism market will be dramatically impacted by any reduction in funds," said one resident who spoke against the project. "Less marketing dollars means less tourists, which means market retraction, which means higher unemployment rates."

The commision was told that many Florida counties have been waiting in line to get beach renourishment funding from the state and federal governments.

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