Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

FDOT Engineer to Update City on Dying Hardwoods; the FDOT Is Working to See If a Restoration Project Led to Salt-Water Intrusion

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

FDOT Engineer to Update City on Dying Hardwoods; the FDOT Is Working to See If a Restoration Project Led to Salt-Water Intrusion

Article excerpt

Byline: MARY HURST

FERNANDINA BEACH - A Florida Department of Transportation environmental management engineer is scheduled to update city commissioners Tuesday, Dec. 6 on why hardwood trees are dying in the Egans Creek Greenway south of Jasmine Street.

Don Dankert also will discuss what will be done about a lock wall caving in along Atlantic Avenue that is blocking water flow into the greenway.

Dankert said Wednesday he is working with Earth Tech, the consultants who designed the Egans Creek Greenway restoration project. Restoration of the greenway to its original salt marsh origins began three years ago as a wetlands mitigation project.

The greenway is a 238-acre preserve that begins south of Atlantic Avenue. On the north side of Atlantic Avenue is a saltwater marsh. The two sides of Atlantic Avenue had been separated by flap gates installed more than 50 years ago that let freshwater out but no saltwater into the greenway. The marsh to the south evolved into a freshwater swamp filled with trees.

In 2003, a $2.7 million project to reconvert the freshwater area back into saltwater marsh got under way. The failing gates were replaced with self-regulating tide gates, allowing saltwater to enter the greenway. The trees in the restoration area were clear cut to hasten the return to marsh.

However, the restoration effort was not supposed to go south of Jasmine Street.

Trees there began dying last spring and the problem has spread in what appears to be salt-water intrusion. Hardwood trees cannot survive in a salt-water ecosystem.

Watershed Action Volunteers recently measured salt levels in the water in the portion of the greenway where the trees are dying. WAV is a St. Johns River Water Management District program that conducts water-quality studies.

The studies showed salinity is approaching ocean water levels.

The FDOT is asking Earth Tech to see if an error was made or if something had been overlooked in the restoration's design. …

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