No fine in St. Augustine Beach dune damage case; criminal case could be dropped

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection won’t fine anyone for taking sand from a St. Augustine Beach dune in September.


A employee for Dr. James and Grace Grimes moved sand from a dune next to their property at 2 12th Lane after Hurricane Irma, which launched both an investigation by the FDEP and a criminal investigation that’s not finished.

Working alongside with FDEP, and with an FDEP inspector present, the Grimes’ had the dune restored, according to an email to The Record from FDEP northeast spokesman Russell Simpson.

The FDEP has closed their side of the case and won’t issue a fine.

“This violation was considered of minor extent,” according to Simpson. “Because of the violators’ full cooperation with the department, which included making required corrective actions in an expeditious manner, staff was able to use enforcement discretion by not issuing a consent order and assessing any monetary penalties.”

Further questions, such as where the sand came from and how much the restoration cost, could not be answered on Friday by FDEP officials because the case manager wasn’t available, Simpson said.

Separate from the case, the Grimes’ have been working on designs for a dune walkover at the site. That will require an FDEP permit, according to Simpson.

It’s unclear what will happen on the criminal side of the case.

After discovering the dune damage in September, beach police forwarded two misdemeanor charges against James and Grace Grimes to the State Attorney’s Office, according to a police report. The charges were related to taking sand from the dunes without FDEP approval and having someone driving on the dunes.

Police also forwarded one charge of driving on the dunes against the Grimes’ employee who moved sand from the area. George Leon Smith Jr.

James Grimes said after Hurricane Irma he and his wife asked Smith to clean up his property but did not reference the dunes, and that the crossover was already there before the hurricane. Smith told a police officer that he only removed sand that had filled back into a crossover that existed before the storm, according to the police report.

The State Attorney’s Office had been waiting on the FDEP’s investigation to end before deciding whether to pursue the charges, said Bryan Shorstein, State Attorney’s Office spokesman. A factor in that decision will be how well the people involved worked with the FDEP, he said.

As of Friday evening, the State Attorney’s Office had reached out to the FDEP but had not made a decision about the case, according to an email to The Record from Shorstein.

“I can tell you the primary goal in this case was to restore the Dune to the condition it was in before the damage, and it does appear it has been restored,” according to Shorstein.