Dune Science Group to head protection project for the city

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  • This beach access along Ocean Avenue is a breach of the dune, which creates a flooding hazard. The dune, says coastal geomorphologist Dr. Frank Hopf, protects the north end of Amelia Island from storm surge, and is being damaged by people walking through it to access the beach. The city says it will apply for a grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for funds to build a walkover at the location to protect the dune from damage.  Julia Roberts/News-Leader
    This beach access along Ocean Avenue is a breach of the dune, which creates a flooding hazard. The dune, says coastal geomorphologist Dr. Frank Hopf, protects the north end of Amelia Island from storm surge, and is being damaged by people walking through it to access the beach. The city says it will apply for a grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for funds to build a walkover at the location to protect the dune from damage. Julia Roberts/News-Leader
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The city of Fernandina Beach will apply for a grant to build a walkover on the north end of the island while also implementing a plan to rebuild the dune that runs along Ocean Avenue, thanks to the generosity of a resident.

At the Sept. 1 City Commission meeting, a grant application to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for a Coastal Partnership grant for $60,000 was approved by a split vote of 3-2. If awarded, the money from the grant will be used to build a beach walkover at Beach Access 6N along Ocean Avenue.

Grants Administrator Lorelei Jacobs said the application is due Sept. 27, will be considered in the next legislative session, and would require a 100% match. The project would have to be implemented between September 2021 to May 2022, according to the grant’s requirements.

While the grant application was approved, that vote was not unanimous as two commissioners, Mike Lednovich and Chip Ross, believe the money would be better spent on a “global” effort to protect the dune, which is the barrier that prevents flooding from storm surge on north beach.

Vice Mayor Len Kreger has spearheaded efforts to obtain grant funding, including funding for walkovers. He supported using the grant for Beach Access 6N and said it is consistent with a dune protection plan created by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Lednovich said what the Corps brought to the City Commission is not a plan but a set of recommendations, with no prioritization, funding mechanism or timeline.

Ross said $60,000 could be better spent than using it to build one walkover. He said there are 48 beach accesses in the city and 22 of them need to be repaired or replaced. The replacement cost of those walkovers is $7.2 million, and $2.5 million to put walkovers at beach accesses without walkovers, he said, while alternatives exist to provide access and allow the dunes to grow that are less expensive. He added that residents on the north end of the island have not been involved in the process of planning and designing walkovers, and he believes they should be.

“I would like to support using this grant to do the more global approach as opposed to one dune walkover,” Ross said.

Kreger defended using the grant to build a walkover at Beach Access 6N.

“This was chosen because the north end is the only repetitive damage and because it could be done on-grade, relatively cheap, from Ocean Avenue to the end of the dune,” Kreger said. “It does include sand fencing and sea oats. It meets that requirement (of the grant) and we can match with impact funds.”

While the grant money, if awarded, will go to a walkover, the dune system along Ocean Avenue will receive some attention, in the form of volunteers and contributions.

Coastal geomorphologist Dr. Frank Hopf told the commission his organization, Dune Science Group, has studied the dune and determined there are three problems: a large revetment on the west side of the dune that blocks access to the beach, an undersize dune that leaves residences unprotected from storm surge, and a lack of habitat for endangered species.

Hopf said the solution is to naturally grow the dune seaward and to repair “holes” in the dune created by people walking through it to access the beach.

Hopf proposed to the City Commission that DSG take on the project to begin the process of building the dune, as well
as offering technical assistance in applying for additional
grants.

“We are volunteering to do all the permitting and design work, to train all the volunteers, provide the plants at wholesale cost, 1,704 plants on accesses 4 (to) 11,” Hopf said. “We would help direct city crews to install sand fences. You can’t plant until spring, so we would put fences up November. As dunes grow November through March due to northeastern winds.”

“For $2,500, I’m offering to start to build the dunes north of Main Beach along Ocean Avenue and help with applications to get $50,000 or $60,000 grant money to start building dunes all up and down the city where they are needed and then for almost no money, start a planting process,” he explained and
added the $2,500 would include $300 for refreshments for volunteers.

South Fletcher resident Bryn Byron said she hired Hopf to work on the dune on her property, was very satisfied with that job, and volunteered to donate the $2,500 needed for DSG to perform the project. She said her sister is a member of the Master Gardeners program, which may be involved in the planting that will be required.

The City Commission expressed its gratitude to Byron, and City Attorney Tammi Bach said there would be a resolution on a commission meeting agenda in October to approve accepting the donation.