City leaders from Jacksonville, Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach and Atlantic Beach united alongside the Army Corps of Engineers Wednesday to announce the conclusion of the beach renourishment project.
“We’re here today to celebrate what you can accomplish when you work together for the people of the beaches and for Jacksonville as a whole,” Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said.
The project was about halfway finished when Hurricane Matthew hit the beaches. The Army Corps of Engineers assessed damage after the storm and added dune restoration as part of the project.
“With the beach and the dunes, it was enough sand to fill up half of Everbank Field,” Colonel Jason Kirk, commander of the US Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District, said.
Kirk said the total project cost around $22 million with the City of Jacksonville contributing just over $6.5 million.
“Hurricane Matthew really demonstrated to everyone the importance of having a robust dune system along our beaches,” Kevin Bodge, senior vice president of Olsen Associates, said. Olsen Associates is the coastal engineering consultant for the project.
Bodge lives at the beach and saw the damage to the dunes firsthand.
“They took a real beating,” he said. “Basically they absorbed the impact of the storm so we at the beaches did not.”
The final stage of the project is now underway. Bodge said crews will plant 620,000 sea oats on more than six miles of beach from Atlantic Beach to the St. Johns County border.
The sea oats grow strong roots that help reinforce the dunes from within. They also collect sand to naturally grow the dunes.
“It naturally armors the dune and grows the dune at the same time,” Bodge said.
However, the new plants are small and will take months to grow roots. They likely would not withstand a serious storm if the ocean reached the dunes.
“These plants are too young to hold the dune in place and so they’ll be lost or sacrificed,” Bodge said.
Currently, the sea oat planting is about one-third completed. Bodge said they expect to finish in mid-August.