A kayak launch and other projects are moving ahead in St. Augustine thanks to some newly awarded grants.
The Florida Inland Navigation District recently approved grants for three projects: dredging Salt Run, building a kayak launch in Lincolnville and buying a new police boat, said Jim Piggott, the city’s general services director.
The grants are being combined with money from the St. Augustine Port, Waterway & Beach District.
State law establishes responsibilities of FIND, which supports projects that improve the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway by levying taxes, according to the district’s website. The local port authority, which also levies taxes, promotes commercial and recreational marine activity in Northeast Florida, according to its website.
FIND is paying $150,000 of $200,000 for dredging Salt Run, $90,000 of the $180,000 kayak-launch construction project, and $60,000 of the $120,000 cost of a police boat, Piggott said. The port is paying the rest of those costs.
Salt Run connects to the Lighthouse boat ramp and businesses such as the Conch House Marina. It also leads to the Intracoastal Waterway, which flows through the Matanzas and Tolomato rivers and past the St. Augustine Inlet.
Without dredging, materials clog the channel and make it narrower, Piggott said.
“It will make it more dangerous for boaters to navigate that, and we have tens of thousands of boats every year use that [Lighthouse] boat ramp,” he said.
The city has been dredging Salt Run, via a contractor, every couple of years with FIND grants, he said. By waiting a year, the city has been able to combine two grants and get a more effective dredge.
“We have a great working relationship with the port district and FIND, doing these maintenance-dredging types of projects,” Piggott said.
Two previous grants paid for a dredge that ended about a month ago and took 11,538 cubic yards from Salt Run, according to Piggott. The city plans to apply for another grant in 2018 and start the next round of dredging in January 2019.
The location of dredges change because an engineer surveys the area for high spots before dredging, according to Piggott.
As for the kayak launch, the city expects to have that done in 2018, possibly in June, Piggott said. Design and construction plans are ready, and the latest grant pays for almost all of the construction needed.
The launch will be connected to a walkway and a dock near Eddie Vickers Park and the city’s wastewater treatment plant. The kayak launch will be in a waterway south of Lake Maria Sanchez that flows into the Matanzas River, according to construction plans.
Piggott said the project may need City Commission approval for another $20,000 to build a road that will allow people to drop off their kayaks and park. Officials weren’t sure if the grant would come through, so it wasn’t included in the current budget, he said.
The city’s budget year began Oct. 1, and the city received an email last week letting them know the grants came through, Piggott told commissioners, who approved applying for the grants early.
The launch will improve public access to the Intracoastal Waterway in Lincolnville, said Carl Blow, FIND commissioner.
“It’s not just about powerboats,” he said. “The idea is to provide access to as many taxpayers as possible.”
The final project, the police boat, will replace the existing boat, which is seven years old and needs a lot of maintenance, St. Augustine Police Department Assistant Chief Anthony Cuthbert said.
With the boat, the city patrols mooring fields, performs search-and-rescues and deals with derelict boats, Cuthbert said.
The plan is to replace the boat in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, 2018, Piggott said.