ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- Brian Beach's family has had the St. Augustine Marina store since 1955 in Vilano Beach. It's just north of the St. Augustine Inlet. His family relies on captains being able to come in and out of the inlet with ease.
"If we don't have the boats coming in and out of here, we don't have any business," Beach said Monday.
This month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is dredging the St. Augustine Inlet to make it a deeper channel for easier navigation.
Project manager Shelley Trulock with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the inlet was as shallow as nine feet in some places.
"It's rough," Beach said, "It makes it really rough getting in and out."
If anyone knows about the boats that access the inlet, it's Sam Adukiewicz. He's the Harbormaster at the St. Augustine Municipal Marina in downtown St. Augustine.
"As any boater knows, it's always good to have a wide waterway and a deep waterway," Adukiewicz said.
The dredging project will deepen the inlet to at least 16 feet, according to Trulock, which will allow recreational boats and watercraft better access to the ocean from the Intracoastal Waterway.
"We have a 165-foot pleasure yacht here now," Adukiewicz pointed at the marina, "and that boat feels a lot safer being in here now."
He added that more boats in the marina means more people are spending money in St. Augustine.
The inlet was dredged and deepened just last year. The sand pulled from the inlet floor was placed on St. Augustine Beach. It was part of a beach re-nourishment project.
However, Hurricane Sandy came through two months later and undid what the dredging had done.
Because of Sandy's effects, Trulock said almost $2 million was budgeted in 2013 for the St. Augustine Inlet project by the Army Corps of Engineers. Because it was already budgeted, the dredging is taking place, even during a government shutdown. The contractors working on the project are getting paid, Trulock said, but 20 percent of the Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District staff is indeed furloughed.
Trulock explained that 120,000 cubic yards of sand from the inlet will be placed on the beach at Anastasia State Park. It will essentially be a beach re-nourishment project for a portion of the beach that was not re-nourished last year.
As for Beach, he wonders if there's a better way to help ease the shoaling of the inlet rather than dredging every so often.
"If they extend the jetties out into the ocean, that could eliminate the possibility of having so much dredging because it would block out some of the sand that keeps coming back in over and over again," he said.
But for now, the dredging will deepen the inlet and help his bottom line.
Beach smiled and said, "We get more boats, and then more people, and then more money."
First Coast News