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State in final stage of permit approval to restore Summer Haven River

7:04 PM, Dec 3, 2013   |    comments
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ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. -- The Summer Haven River is one big step closer to being restored.

Currently, sand clogs the river in Southern St. Johns County.

Dee Parker's home is on the Summer Haven River, and she has lived there for 23 years.

When beach sand started choking the Summer Haven River, she and many others were heartbroken.

"It was devastating. Just devastating," Parker said.

So the news that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is in the final stage of approving a permit to restore the river makes her very happy.

"We're thrilled. We're excited," Parker smiled.

The river started sanding in five years ago when storms sent waves crashing through a sand dune on a nearby beach.  Since then, beach sand has slipped into the Summer Haven River, clogging it and turning riverfront homes into homes on the sand.

The sand has inched closer to Parker's dock on the river, sending fish, dolphin and boaters elsewhere.

Residents and others interested in the Summer Haven River created the Save Our River group. It received help from the St. Augustine Port and Waterway Beach District which applied for a permit to remove the sand. The process has taken about two years and a couple environmental studies.

"This whole permitting process has been crazy," Parker noted.

Then the birds came. The threatened Least Tern and the Wilson's Plover started nesting on the sand which clogged the river. The Audubon Society opposed the sand removal.

Monique Borboen with Audubon Florida said in August 2012 "By destroying their nesting habitat, in the long term, we are impacting their survival."

At that time, Borboen hoped a compromise could be reached with the homeowners.

It looks like one has.

Birding groups and the Save Our River group have seemingly agreed that if the sand is removed, a birding area or areas can be created.

As for the funding, that is "up in the air", Parker said.

Jerry Dixon of the St. Augustine Port and Waterway Beach District says it's estimated to cost at least $2 million to move the 216,000 cubic yards of sand from the river and back onto the beach.

Parker said, "We hope to have a large portion of private donations."  

Parker added that restoring the river is worth the work and the wait that the long permitting process has taken.

----To connect with Jessica Clark, follow her on Twitter at@JessicaFCN or Like her on Facebook.

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