As Beach Renourishment Wraps Up, Jax Leaders Look To Address Sea Level Rise

Jan 30, 2019

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said Wednesday he’s putting together a committee on sea-level rise, shortly after he announced the renourishment project to repair Jacksonville-area beaches damaged by recent hurricanes is complete.

“I have asked my team to put together an ad hoc committee on sea level rise,” he told a crowd gathered on the shore at Jacksonville Beach Wednesday afternoon. “We are in the process of talking to people that we want to serve on that committee, and we're obviously going to work with the mayors at the beaches as well. It's a collaborative effort and we recognize it and are on top of it.”

Neptune Beach Mayor Elaine Brown made a similar announcement.

“The three [beach] mayors met in early December to talk about sea level rising and the consequences of not being prepared,” she said. “We are going to be having a forum that will take place here at the beaches sometime in March or April. And we're getting some speakers that will be here in a forum. We take it very seriously.”

“Just this week the Atlantic Beach commission voted on a resolution to acknowledge the impact of sea level rise and I know that the three beach mayors, along with Mayor Curry, are going to be addressing this in the coming year,” added Atlantic Beach Mayor Ellen Glasser. “We've made environmental leadership our top priority.”

Related: Atlantic Beach Takes Steps To Begin Addressing Sea Level Rise

Curry’s committee and Brown’s forum are still in the developmental stages and the two were short on details. The primary focus of Wednesday’s press event was the completion of a months long beach renourishment.

Jacksonville’s Coastal Engineering Consultant, Kevin Bodge of Olsen Associates, said to repair damage done by hurricanes Irma and Matthew about 880,000 cubic yards of sand were placed along eight miles of shoreline.

“That's all the way from the St. Johns County line up through Hanna Park, almost to the north end of Hanna Park,” he said. “Of that 880,000 cubic yards, 80,000 of it went directly to the dunes to repair erosion to the dunes after Matthew and Irma. That was paid for completely by the City of Jacksonville. And the other 800,000 was placed to the flat beach berm that slopes into the sea. And that was paid for 100 percent by the Corps of Engineers.”

Mayor Curry said the city spent about $1.7 million on the project.

“This is important for the entire City of Jacksonville and for all three cities at the beaches,” he said. “Economic development is obviously incredibly important for our beaches - such an attraction for residents and for tourism. But also, more importantly, this is us caring for our water and our beaches and making sure that we address and take care of the environment.”

Councilman Bill Gulliford of District 13, which includes all of Duval County’s beach communities south of the St. Johns River, agreed with Curry.

“This is not only important to the beach folks,” he said. “This is important to the county as a whole because this is the best asset we have.”

“You know we've had some storms, obviously, in the past couple of years that have had an impact on us and this is a great protective layer for us to make sure that we stay safe and keep the water from broaching into the streets,” Jacksonville Beach Mayor Charlie Latham said of the renourished beaches and dunes.

“This is not a partial renourishment,” said Glasser. “After the last storm, you folks may recall that our beaches in the north end of Atlantic Beach were decimated… this was a full renourishment.”

“The most important thing that I think that we need to celebrate is... we've got a beach, we're protecting the environment and here we are now, finally seeing that we'll have a great beach for the summer coming up,” Brown said.

Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.