Despite a lone hold out, project to put sand behind Vilano homes to commence this month

About two dozen homes in Vilano Beach affected by Hurricane Matthew stand to receive some emergency sand after St. Johns County secured 153 of 154 easements it needed in just 11 days. The one hold out is a property owner whose home is “dead center” of the sand placement area, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Florida Inland Navigation District say they can work around the property without taking legal action, according to county spokesman Michael Ryan.

 

Ryan told The Record on Tuesday the county was continuing to work with the final property owner, but that ­officials were “not optimistic” about ultimately receiving an easement or reaching a resolution with that parcel. However, because the property in question is within the area getting sand rather than in the stretch providing an easement for piping to get the dredge material from the St. Augustine Inlet up to that point, it was determined the agencies could skip over that property and put the sand elsewhere.

The project is expected to begin by the end of this month and conclude in June.

Getting sand behind a stretch of homes between just north of Third Street and San Pelayo Court has been no small task.

Put into motion shortly after Matthew, the proposed plan has already cleared an improbable amount of red tape.

Prior to the storm, the Corps and FIND had an existing maintenance project scheduled to dredge a portion of the Intracoastal Waterway and pipe the dredged sand to Anastasia State Park. More recently, the Corps received additional federal funds to dredge the St. Augustine Inlet and do the same.

Shortly after the storm, however, the two agencies and St. Johns County have worked with the St. Augustine Port, Waterway and Beach District to modify the dredge contract and place all dredged sands behind homes to the north.

The Corps and FIND covered the additional costs to provide the nearly 250,000 cubic yards of beach-quality sand at no expense to the county. (For a rundown of the project, see the March 6 edition of The Record or go to http://bit.ly/2nb08Rf.)

Leading up to the deadline, officials said the bottom line was this change could only be accomplished if 100 percent of the oceanfront properties from Porpoise Point all the way up to the northern edge of the project provided the county with a temporary construction easement before the end of Monday.

County employees were out in the field over the weekend securing the final easements. As of Saturday afternoon, there were just four remaining (down from six on Friday night).

The easements are required for the seaward of structures to work, run pipeline and place sand on properties, as the work will often extend beyond the mean high water line.

This project will entail the laying of a 30-inch metal pipe from Porpoise Point to San Pelayo Court, and the use and storage of bulldozers and front-end loaders along the beaches.

Operations will be 24 /7 during the sand placement.

Ryan said the County Commission, faced with the one hold out, was scheduled to have a ­special meeting Wednesday to review options for legal recourse, but the meeting was canceled upon learning the agencies’ determination they could work around the gap.

He said it was likely the board will accept the easements during its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday as a procedural item.

Ryan credited the collaboration of local, state and federal agencies with getting the project off the ground but said the community was the “fourth partner” in bringing it to fruition.

“For 153 people to recognize the importance of this and sign off on it, in just 11 days, is a big deal,” he said.

Online

For a rundown of the project, go to http://bit.ly/2nb08Rf

 

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