The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, is scheduled to start a $32.8 million dredging project next month of the channel between Fernandina Beach and Cumberland Island, Georgia, a routine effort occurring every few years to improve navigation for the nuclear submarines traveling the waterway between the Kings Bay Naval Station and the ocean. But for the first time, the sediment, that is traditionally picked up and dumped on Amelia Island’s north end to mitigate beach erosion, will also be pushed by hydraulic pipes as far south as Seaside Park at Sadler Rd., expanding by several miles the beach renourishment effort.
A representative from the Corps is scheduled to provide an overview of the three-month work project at the City Commission meeting Tuesday, Nov. 21, according to an announcement released by the Corps and distributed Monday by City Manager Dale Martin.
Corps Public Affairs Specialist Amanda Parker said sand from the channel will be placed on “critically eroded portions” of city beaches that are not routinely renourished by the federal government and the effort will result in an overall cost savings of approximately $13.5 million.
“This is a good news story,” she said by phone. “It’s getting two bangs for your buck.”
Ms. Parker said the local portion of the renourishment project is $1.6 million and will be (nearly) split by the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Amelia Island Tourist Development Council, although 54 percent of this cost belongs to the city and Nassau County, according to Mr. Martin. Tourism officials have agreed to pay for the beach project on behalf of the local governments through the money collected from the hotel bed tax, which is imposed at $4 per night, per room on all licensed overnight accommodations on the island, including the City of Fernandina Beach.
Work will continue for three months, said Ms. Parker, and must conclude by the time turtle season gets underway in March. She said residents can expect to see “mobilization equipment” on beaches next week. Once work is underway, small sections of the beach will be restricted at any one time, she said.
According to Ms. Parker, the public will have access to real time updates on the district website (http://www.saj.usace.army.mil) and Facebook page. She said the Corps is planning to post progress maps “to let people know where we’re at.” There are also plans to hold a community meeting, she said.
City Commissioner Len Kreger, who has been working with the Corps since last year to move the renourishment project forward, encouraged people to attend the public presentation.
“There are going to be access issues and noise issues,” he said by phone Monday afternoon. “But this is a very good project with a lot of benefits and people should know what’s going to happen.”
The commission meets Tues. at 6:00 p.m. at City Hall at 204 Ash St. Can’t attend? The city streams commission meetings live on the government website at www.fbfl.us.