Dune damage assessments underway

Irma eroded much of the sand dunes and now officials are trying to figure out if they need to be restored again.

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. - Crews with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are assessing damage to dunes and beaches along the First Coast to determine whether work needs to be done to restore them.

The beach re-nourishment project, which widened Jacksonville’s beaches and rebuilt the dunes damaged by Hurricane Matthew, wrapped up earlier this summer.

During Hurricane Irma, the dunes held, but sustained significant erosion in the process.

“These type of storms show how important that dune structure system is,” said Jason Harrah, project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Harrah said crews were surveying damage from Mayport to Jacksonville Beach Thursday.

“Overall the structure [of the dunes] is still there, the integrity of that structure is still there, but we will assess it with our crews and determine if we need to take additional steps,” he said.

The crews will determine how much sand eroded in the storm and use that data to form a plan of action.

“If we determine it’s a significant amount, we may consider doing another renourishment,” Harrah said. “If it’s not a significant amount we’ll wait until the next renourishment that’s scheduled which is about four years from now.”

Beaches locals know all too well the importance of the dunes.

“It’s huge,” said Neptune Beach resident David Hathaway. “I think if we didn’t all these houses would suffer significant flood damage.”

Hathaway lives a block from the beach and worried the dunes, in current condition after Irma, would not withstand another major storm.

“I think next year, next fall, if we make it out of this season, the risk is large that these dunes are gonna beach if they’re not replenished,” Hathaway said.

Harrah said the beaches are federal projects, but the dunes are not. Therefore, he said, the city would have to foot the bill to rebuild the dunes. Harrah said once the Corps of Engineers figures out how much sand was lost, they’ll meet with the city to figure out the next step.

A City of Jacksonville representative told First Coast News since the storm happened so recently, she was not aware of any conversations about the dunes happening at the moment but they should be happening soon.

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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