Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Feeding the Beaches Ecology Reshapes Renourishment

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Feeding the Beaches Ecology Reshapes Renourishment

Article excerpt

For the first time on Jacksonville's beaches, renourishment sand will be hauled in by barge next year to avoid disrupting beach activity.

In the past, the sand has been trucked in and bulldozed into place or pumped ashore from the ocean floor off the coast. Beach renourishment occurs every four years to correct erosion along the coast.

The next beach renourishment is scheduled to start early next year. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is overseeing the project, hopes to put out requests for contractors' bids by January.

St. Johns County is also scheduled for beach renourishment next year, and Nassau County will have the process done for the first time, but probably not for at least three years, officials said.

The corps has budgeted between $5 million and $10 million for Jacksonville's shoreline restoration, said Rick McMillen, the corps' project manager for beach renourishment. He declined to be more specific about the project's cost until the agency fine-tunes its bid request.

This time around, the contractor will haul in less sand than in the past, McMillen said. The project will involve 500,000 cubic yards of sand spread over 7.5 miles of beach between Mayport and South Jacksonville Beach. That's about 300,000 cubic yards less than what was spread over the same area in 1996.

Due to natural coastal processes, the amount of beach erosion has diminished and stabilized over the 20 years that Duval County has participated in the corps' program, McMillen said.

''It's holding up super since 1996,'' he said.

Daniel Hanes, a University of Florida coastal engineering professor, said that's what renourishment programs hope for, but often don't achieve.

''We're often playing a catch-up game,'' Hanes said.

Next year in Northeast Florida, the contractor will come up with a plan to load the sand from a spoil site in the St. Johns River onto a barge, haul the barge to the ocean's shore and pump the sand into the water. The corps expects to lose 1 to 3 percent of the sand in the process, McMillen said.

The sand will no longer be brought in by truck, which would require thousands of trips that would tear up roads, disturb beach activity and threaten sea turtles and other wildlife, McMillen said. In the past, contractors also have used pumps aboard barges offshore to move sand from the ocean bottom to the beach.

The corps is working with county and state agencies under a 50-year contract for beach renourishment that began in 1981. Duval County is expected to contribute about $2.5 million to the project, the state will pay an equal amount and the federal government will pay the rest .

The corps will use sand that's been dredged from the St. Johns River and stored at a disposal site near the banks of the shipping channel. …

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