July 16, 2008

Beachfront Homes Are Regaining Some Sand The Erosion Problem is Still There, but Signs Have Become ‘Encouraging’ Now.


After about three years of losing sand from the dunes behind their homes because of beach erosion, some homeowners in South Ponte Vedra Beach are regaining sand, very slowly and naturally.

Resident Gary Close said he's among those who have gotten a pleasant surprise - more sand on the dune behind his house.

"Sand has built up in front of the bulkheads and the beach has a slope so high [the] tide does not reach the [temporary sea] walls the way it used to," Close said. "There is even a turtle nest in front of one of the homes with a bulkhead."

Close said that even though one severe storm could reverse the buildup, he sees the change as an "encouraging and welcome" sign.

Tom Turnage, president of the Vilano-South Ponte Vedra Beach Restoration Association, said he has noticed some additional sand, but he said it's not enough to offset three years of severe erosion.

Several homeowners in South Ponte Vedra Beach have lost an average of 50 feet of sand behind their homes over the past three years; others have lost less. But the erosion has had some effect on all of the roughly 120 homeowners who live in the area. Turnage said part of the problem is that the beaches have not been building back up in the summer as they used to.

The erosion in that area is an issue because two years ago, officials declared an emergency for five homes because they ended up dangerously close to the tall dunes after a storm. Since then, most of the homeowners have installed temporary sea walls to stave off further erosion.

This year, however, Turnage said some sand has come back.

"This is the first year in the past three years that we've gotten a little sand back," Turnage said. "We're not losing any sand right this minute."

Because the recent accumulation hasn't restored the damage that's been done, Turnage said he's continuing to pursue a resident-funded study on the beach erosion.

At a St. Johns County Commission meeting in December, Turnage said the homeowners who live in the severely eroded 2-mile stretch of South Ponte Vedra Beach are willing to raise about $1 million for a matching grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to temporarily slow the erosion.

With the money, 10,000 feet of beach will be protected by adding 6 cubic yards of sand per foot. That will create a sand barrier that is 8 feet tall and 20 feet wide, from 2719 to 2927 S. Ponte Vedra Blvd.

Further south, in Vilano Beach, five homeowners are still awaiting approval from the DEP to install seawalls to protect their homes from beach erosion. Although erosion began affecting them last spring, later than in South Ponte Vedra Beach, it has threatened the homes of five residents. In April, the homeowners were told they could get DEP waivers to install the walls but they are still waiting for approval.Christina Abel can also be reached at (904) 249- 4947, ext. 6319.

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