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Tentative estimated cost to help beach erosion in St. Johns County: $21M

6:05 PM, Oct 15, 2013   |    comments
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ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. -- Vivian Browning knows Vilano Beach.

"I've been in Vilano, owned property here for 25 years," she said.

In those 25 years Browning has seen a lot of changes in Vilano Beach. One of those changes is the gradual erosion of the beach.

"It's constant. It happens all the time," Browning acknowledged. "But we only notice it with a big nor'easter."

Browning, a real estate broker in Vilano Beach, said, "It's difficult to show a property where there's erosion in to the sea oats. You show it at high tide and there's no beach to sit on or walk on.  The water comes up to the last dune."

Since 2004, according to St. Johns County Engineer Andrew Ames, there has been an Army Corp of Engineers study underway studying three St. Johns County beaches deemed critically eroded: South Ponte Vedra Beach, Vilano Beach, and Summer Haven.  

Most recently, the study's models have been pretty detailed.

"It really looks into pretty much every house, every road, every utility that could be impacted through storm surge or tidal waves," Ames said. 

St. Johns County engineering documents submitted this week for the county commission's review show that if the study determines those beaches need erosion control measures, the estimated cost would be $21 million dollars.

"That number is kind of a place holder," Ames said. 

Depending on what the $3 million study determines, Ames said the cost to help all  -- or one or two -- of those three beaches could cost more or less than $21M.

"But we don't know that until the study is finished," Ames added.

Options to help the beaches include putting walls up along the coastline, putting sand out just beyond the coast line that would wash up on shore or put sand directly onto the beach -- similar to the beach renourishment project at St. Augustine Beach.

"We know they have a problem and we want St. Augustine Beach to succeed," Browning nodded, but she says Vilano Beach and other areas need help with erosion as well. She'd like to see a beach renourishment project in her corner of the county. 

Browning said erosion doesn't just threaten ocean front home owners, but it can impact critical infrastructure such as A1A.

And of course, in her real estate business, homes and roads matter.

"I've had people ask me is there an erosion problem in this area. People looking for ocean front ask that question," Browning added.

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