St. Johns County officials sign a multimillion-dollar deal with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at a ceremony on April 23 to fund beach renourishment in Vilano Beach and South Ponte Vedra Beach. PHOTOS COURTESY OF ST. JOHNS COUNTY

St. Johns County, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sign multimillion-dollar agreement for beach renourishment

Florida - St. Johns County officials signed a multimillion-dollar deal with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at a ceremony on April 23 to fund local beach renourishment.

The partnership agreement will pave the way for the renourishment of 2.5 miles of beach between Vilano and South Ponte Vedra Beach over the next 50 years. The project is estimated to cost $144.5 million, a percentage of which the county, state and federal government will pay.

Neil Shinkre, public works director of St. Johns County, said the deal has been long-awaited.

“A lot of work has gone on for this,” Shinkre said. “This is a project that has started about 15 years back, so we are really happy to see all the effort that us and the commissioners have supported and made.”

Many of St. Johns County’s beaches have been in need of some serious TLC due to erosion and recent hurricane damage. Because tourism is the main industry of the area, many were eager to begin the renourishment project on the depleted beaches. The project intends to add an additional 80-100 feet of sand out toward the ocean, according to Shrinkre.

Currently, Shrinkre said the agreement estimates that the Army Corps will pay for 23 percent of the project. The remaining 77 percent will be paid by the county and state. Recently, however, Shinkre said the commission approved a $1.7 million parking project to increase the number of available spaces in the corridor along the project’s beaches in Vilano and South Ponte Vedra Beach. With the increase in parking, the Corps will take a larger percentage of cost, ranging upwards of 40 percent of overall cost.

“If you look at the sheer percentage increases from 23 percent to maybe 40 percent, that extra 17 percent is going to be a huge number over the long years for the county,” Shinkre said. “So, for us to invest the $1.7 million in parking, that the board approved of, is a really great return of investment for the county.”

In addition, Shinkre said that the agreement will also serve as a 50-year insurance policy against future hurricanes.

“The good thing about having a federal project is should a hurricane come in and take away, let’s say, 50 percent of the sand that was put in, the Corps will come in immediately and put in all that sand that was gone for 100 percent of the cost,” he said. “We will not have to pay anything.”

Shinkre said he sees the renourishment project as cementing the future of the county. It’s a project, he said, that will most likely outlive him.

“It’s really a closure of a lot of efforts from our administration, county administrator, public works and the Corps to get where we are today,” Shinkre said. “The community should be proud.”

See Ponte Vedra Recorder article . . .