Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Environmental Groups' Suit Could Delay Building Barrier

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Environmental Groups' Suit Could Delay Building Barrier

Article excerpt

Byline: Alison Trinidad, Nassau Neighbors staff writer

Several environmental groups recently filed a legal challenge to stop, or at least postpone, the construction of a 1,600-foot rock groin at the south end of Amelia Island.

They say the structure, designed to protect Amelia Island's southern beaches against erosion, could adversely affect several bird habitats on the islands in Nassau Sound. They want guarantees that the habitats will be protected.

Those fighting for the groin, however, say they've already made those guarantees. They also say that the longer construction is delayed, more sand will be lost through erosion, possibly endangering the maritime forest of the Amelia Island State Recreation Area.

The construction of the rock groin, which would extend perpendicular from the southeastern shore of the island, is the second phase of a three-phase, multimillion-dollar beach renourishment project of the Florida Park Service and the South Amelia Island Shore Stabilization Association Inc., a local taxing district made up of south-end residents and property owners.

The third phase of the project involves yearly monitoring of the area.

The first phase of the project, which cost about $8 million, spread almost 2 million cubic yards of sand from American Beach south last summer. The proposed structure is designed to protect that recently deposited sand from being washed away.

"The structure slows down the loss rate of sand on the south end of the island," said Erik Olsen of Olsen Associates Inc., the Jacksonville engineering firm that designed the project. "If we didn't do that, the beach that we pumped out there would erode away in a couple of years."

Saving the beach also will save live oaks and palm trees that form a rare maritime forest on Amelia Island's south end, Olsen said. Those trees could fall into the ocean or die from saltwater intrusion because of excessive erosion, he said.

Project officials say the second phase is scheduled to last about four to six months. …

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