A. Date, Time, Place of Meeting
Date of Meeting: August 30, 2004
Place: The Ribault Club on Ft. George Island
Time: 1:30 PM – 3:30 PM
2. Ann Baker
3. Barbara Goodman
4. Bob Baughman
5. Carter Bryan
6. David Stubbs
7. Dustin DeVos
8. Elisha Wilson
9. Elizabeth Kohler
10. John Lowe
11. Pam Paul
12. Philip Bruce
13. Richard Bryant
14. Richard Skinner
15. Robert Joseph
16. Ron Littlepage
17. Ron Shumaker
18. Rufus Pennington
19. Shauna Allen
20. T.R. Hainline
Robert Joseph of the Florida Parks Service welcomed the group to the Ribault Club. He described the history of the Island and the Club and mentioned that the Clubhouse was restored through the Timucuan Trails State and National Parks partnership, with the FPS, NPS, and COJ contributing to the restoration of the facility. Today the building is used as a visitor center with exhibits as well as a location for meetings and events.
Bob explained that today's meeting originated when the Parks Task Force asked the park partners if there were any special topics of which they should be aware while studying the City's park system. The filling in of the Ft. George Inlet with sands blocked from traveling south due to the jetties was the topic of the day, with a focus on the affects to the Timucuan Preserve. Robert Joseph introduced Mark Latch, from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Parks and Recreation, who traveled from Tallahassee to brief the group on the topic.
D. History / Overview of Issue
Mark Latch indicated that many different agencies, organizations, and individuals had been studying the sand build-up in the Ft. George Inlet for a number of years and were concerned. He overviewed the history along with Shauna Allen of the National Parks Service. In the 1930s when the jetties were made sand-tight, sands started to build up quite dramatically on the north end of Huguenot and in the Inlet. As the channel shifted north, the sand was pushed back up into the Ft. George River. By the 1950s, there was significant erosion to the south end of Little Talbot Island, with a whole section of the park, including a boardwalk, parking, etc., having to be removed. About ten years ago, the Florida Department of Transportation secured the A1A Bridge over the Ft. George Inlet. Today the shoals are becoming much more substantial as sands from the north continue to travel south and are blocked by the jetties. (A shoal is a sandy elevation of the bottom of a body of water, constituting a hazard to navigation; a sandbank or sandbar.)
The Taylor engineering group recently conducted a study of the Inlet and concluded that 1,300,000 cubic yards could be dredged from the north side of the bridge and 3,300,000 cubic yards from the south side of the bridge, with 2,200,000 cubic yards being added to the south end of Little Talbot Island and the rest potentially being used for beach renourishment in the Jacksonville beaches area. Due to timing, permitting and funding concerns, the Jacksonville Beaches are using another source of sand now for their beach renourishment project.
To Mr. Latch, this is an issue of resource management, with our resources here being recreation and water quality. The shoaling of the Inlet negatively affects the water quality within the Timucuan Preserve. The estuarine system is a flushing one and if the system starts drawing water from the St. Johns River rather than from the Ocean, the water quality would be quite different. Where do we go from here? Finding sponsors and funding for further studies, data collection, regional studies, etc. Region-wide studies are key so we don't spend millions of dollars to dredge today then have to come back and dredge again in five or ten years. Mr. Latch introduced Bradd Schwichtenberg of the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).
Mr. Schwichtenberg, Chief, Coastal-Navigation Section, of the Jacksonville District USACE reiterated that numerous agencies and organizations involved in the issue are concerned about the negative affect on the Preserve due to the reduction in ocean water traveling through the Ft. George Inlet and River. He discussed that options for consideration by the USACE were as an Ecosystem Restoration Project (ERP), a Shore Protection Study, a Harbor Impact Study, or a Multi-purpose Project which would allow customization of the study purposes. Another route is to try to get funding for the study through the Continuing Authorities program.
Mr. Shwichtenberg said his recommendation to the City would be to try for a Multi-purpose project since the scope could be large and customized. USACE process requires a local sponsor to request study authorization from Congress. The first step would be for the USACE to conduct a Reconnaissance Study (one year; $100,000). The second step would be for the USACE to do a Feasibility Study (several years; $2 – 5 million; cost share with USACE and local). Cost share percentages between federal/ state/ local differ by study and by percentage of problem determined to be caused by the USACE project (in this case, the jetties), but can be 50% federal / 50% local to 65% federal / 35% local. Mr. Schwichtenberg mentioned that Jacksonville is in the same region as the Everglades, so restoration funding going to our region would be competing with projects happening there. Mr. Shwichtenberg then introduced Brad Thoburn, Director of State and Federal Affairs, of the Mayor's Office.
F. Local Initiatives
Brad Thoburn spoke to the group and indicated that the City of Jacksonville has great interest in the project, but thinks that the USACE and FDEP should share costs, along with other partners, where funding is available. He also mentioned that there is a backlog right now because there are too few federal funds to cover all of the restoration projects that have been requested of the USACE recently. Mr. Thoburn said that the City of Jacksonville submitted a federal request to pay for a Reconnaissance study earlier this year through the Energy and Water appropriation to the USACE. We need our Congressional representatives to push the appropriation in order for it to move forward because of the backlog of projects and the competition from the Everglades restoration, Intracoastal Waterway maintenance needs, etc. Any state funding of the studies would need to be approved by the Legislature.
Mr. Thoburn emphasized that this needs to be a regional watershed study which looks at sediment accumulation trends. Mr. Carter Bryan mentioned that this project is similar in nature to the White Shell Bay project, which never got off the ground, and Mr. Thoburn remarked that he believed that to be a Continuing Authorities Program project. Mr. Richard Bryant of the National Park Service closed by telling the group that new studies had just come in that indicated that sand is now being deposited further up the Ft. George River and data shows the changes to water quality occurring rapidly.
G. Inlet Viewing
Rufus Pennington and Elizabeth Kohler thanked the group for traveling to the Ribault Club to hear the presentation. The group then walked down to the shoreline at the Club to view the shoaling of the River. The meeting adjourned at 3:30 p.m.