Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Renourishment Engineer to Help Avoid Disasters

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Renourishment Engineer to Help Avoid Disasters

Article excerpt

Byline: Caren Burmeister, Shorelines staff writer

To avoid future beach renourishment mistakes similar to this year's, Jacksonville has hired a new engineer to ensure the beaches receive top quality sand.

But engineer Ronald Schumaker's background in contract dredging isn't exactly what Beaches officials had in mind when they asked Jacksonville to hire a coastal engineer, especially since unsuitable sand piped onto the beaches in January came from dredging the St. Johns River.

"We would have preferred someone with a little different experience," Jacksonville Beach City Manager George Forbes said.

Still, Forbes and others say they are pleased that Jacksonville has committed to doing a better job of overseeing the restoration project performed every five years by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The most recent beach renourishment, which ended in failure in January, used material from the St. Johns River dredging project because corps officials said offshore sand sources had been exhausted and the river bottom material was the next best source.

The corps halted the beach restoration when river material, piped onto 20 blocks of shoreline in south Jacksonville Beach, contained oyster shells, clay balls and other debris.

The contractor couldn't finish the job before April 15, when dredging equipment had to be removed from the Atlantic Ocean before the May 1 start of sea turtle nesting season.

Jacksonville hired Schumaker about a month ago as the city's point man on beach renourishment. He will work with Walter Hogrefe, an engineer who has been the city's beach renourishment person for years.

"We need to make sure there's sufficient support for that program," said John Pappas, engineering chief of Jacksonville's Public Works Department. "We take it very seriously."

As a contractor, Schumaker oversaw beach renourishment in St. Petersburg in the 1990s but has worked primarily in dredging, Pappas said.

Atlantic Beach Mayor John Meserve said he wasn't as concerned about the engineer's experience as his enthusiasm to make beach renourishment work.

Meserve said Jacksonville officials were "bending over backward to work with us" and agree that the three Beaches cities should be a part of the decision-making from the start. …

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