What is the South Ponte Vedra-Vilano Beach Restoration Association, Inc.?
What is SPVVBRA, Inc.?
South Ponte Vedra – Vilano Beach Preservation Association, Inc. is a not-for-profit, 501(c)3 corporation formed for the purpose of preserving our beaches and coastal properties along South Ponte Vedra Boulevard and Coastal Highway, from the southern end of Guana Park to Vilano Point.
In 2006 the Association was formed by oceanfront owners who became increasingly alarmed about the sudden episode of (which turned out to be the first of several) extreme and devastating erosion, unlike anything that had ever been observed by long-term residents.
Since then, the Association’s members have been working on your behalf to understand the causes of the erosion, and to protect our valuable assets from further destruction, and to return sand to our damaged beach.
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How can everyone stay informed?
The success of this project depends on the understanding and support of each and every one of our property owners. While the engineering, finances, and politics are formidable challenges, an even more difficult challenge is communicating with every property owner along our coast.
We occasionally paper mail a newsletter update, but that is an expensive means of communication. The most efficient means of communication is by email, so please provide us your current email address(es). If you previously provided an email address but are not currently receiving emails from us, please confirm that our messages are not being mistakenly directed to your junk mail folder. Please also send any additions or changes in telephone contact information and preferred mailing and emailing addresses.
We have been using gmail, but currently we are investigating alternatives for more efficiency. As of now, you can email to us at email@example.com
We advise that you check the facts with us whenever some news is made available through the television and newspaper media. Many of the local reporters have communicated with us numerous times; we applaud them for learning so quickly so much about this topic and thank them for their continued coverage. Nevertheless it is sometimes difficult to present the complete, accurate picture in brief news clips and articles.
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How can you help?
If you have not yet joined us, we invite you to become a contributing member of the Association.
We appreciate the efforts of all of our participating and supportive members and especially of our very active volunteers who have been working diligently to achieve our successes to date. We appreciate additional volunteers in the areas of membership, communications, newsletter, mailings, fund raising, civic action, web site, etc. So please contact us if you wish to help.
Nearly our entire budget is used to fund our engineers, as well as legal help as a last resort, to defend our position.
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Who can you contact for more information or to express an opinion?
We would like to continue to hear everyone’s voice (questions, comments) on this topic. We intend to update the website so we can better keep everyone up to date as efficiently as possible.
For more information, you may contact any one of the following:
and Guy Rasch
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What has happened to our beach?
How bad is the erosion?
The erosion rate has been accelerating, the beach continues to narrow, and the natural cycle of erosion followed by accretion has been disrupted.
A 2008 Study shows that the rate of erosion (sand loss) intensified by a 20-fold factor during the period 2003-2008 compared to the baseline period of 1972-2003.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) continues to add segments of the north beaches to its list of “critically eroded” coastline:
- First, the section on Coastal Highway extending from the Reef Restaurant to just south of the Beachcomber. (FDEP survey monuments R109 to R117)
- Next, the section in South Ponte Vedra from the Exxon (formerly Gate) Station to the public park across from the Fire Station. (FDEP survey monuments R84 to R94)
Most recently, the section from the Fire Station to about ½ mile north of the Serenata condominium complex. (FDEP survey monuments R94 to R98)
“Critically eroded” means that in FDEP’s opinion the erosion and recession of the beach or dune system threatens upland development (such as our houses, as well as the road), recreational interests, wildlife habitat, or important cultural resources.
During the severe erosion events of the past several years, some locations (“hot spots”) lost on the order of approximately 30 feet of dune over the period of a few high tide cycles, resulting in dramatic, and structure-threatening, loss of land, and in some cases condemnation of the structure until repairs could be made.
Since 2005, more than 50 homeowners have constructed, been permitted for, or are currently applying for permits for armoring to protect their structures from total destruction. In addition, many homeowners have rebuilt walkovers and stairs for beach access numerous times.
Property owners who need to protect their property from sudden erosion destruction face numerous, and sometimes, insurmountable hurdles.
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Has a cause for our erosion been determined? Yes, and no.....
As a result of our Feasibility Study, we learned that major dredging projects of 2003 and 2005 removed over 7 million cubic yards (mcy) of sand from the St Augustine Inlet area, including the ebb shoal near the mouth of the inlet. Yet another dredging in 2012 increased that total to 9.4 mcy. These voluminous dredgings were not to maintain navigation channel safety but rather to provide the sand for nourishment of St Augustine Beach. Navigation channel dredging have historically been less than 200,000 cubic yards, and not repeated for many years. The dredging amounts far exceeded the limits defined in the 1993 St Augustine Inlet Management Plan, which should have been updated with revised limits by 2003, but was not.
As a result of the SPVVPA’s formal petition against the most recent dredging permit, one of the many concessions in a Settlement Agreement was an update of the Inlet Management Plan, which as of 2014 defines much lower limits of dredging and requires that dredged sand be returned to not only the beaches to the south but also those to the north.
All 3 of the dredgings have been followed by severe erosion periods on the beaches of South Ponte Vedra to Vilano, with numerous properties endangered. The correlation cannot be denied.
It is notable that various studies and experts’ claims have evolved since we began our challenge.
The settlement agreement,supporting studies by the Army Corps and by Florida State University for the DEP, and the revised Sediment Budget and Inlet Management Plan continue to weaken attempts to state definitively that the inlet dredging did not cause the erosion. Study statements such as “most likely not,” “not to be construed as a finding” “nor does it suggest”, “data…does not exist ..at present” do not prove the claims that storms, not dredging, cause the erosion.
Yet, the Corps of Engineers and the County’s defense continues to be that the facts have not proven that the inlet dredging caused erosion to the beaches from South Ponte Vedra to Vilano.
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Can we expect the beach to restore itself naturally?
Some of our property owners have commented that “nature always brings it back.” Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Many more long-time property owners have commented that while they have seen the sand come and go over many years of observation, in the last several years the sand no longer seems to be coming back. The extensiveness and speed of the recent erosion of our beach, without a natural cycle of repair, are indicative of some serious problems, which might not have existed before.
The FDEP, after a 2007 review of the erosion data for our beach, determined the situation and trend were “alarming.” Their opinion is that beach nourishment is needed to restore the health of the beach.
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Have property values been affected?
The County Property Appraiser is sensitive to the negative impact the eroded beach has had on the market value of the properties. For example, following the 2007 devastating erosion, the assessed land values of numerous properties were reduced by as much as 50% depending on their proximity to the erosion “hot spots”. At the time, we calculated that the total 2007 reduction in “just values” on these eroded properties was more than $20,000,000. At a tax rate of 16 mils, that represented a decline in County tax revenues of $320,000 per year, and a significant loss of equity for property owners. Subsequent damaging erosion events have resulted in similar reduced assessed land values. The loss in value for coastal properties results in softening of overall real estate values in the area.
The good news is that properties located in areas with nourished beaches normally enjoy increased property values after restoration, as documented in numerous studies, including one conducted under a contract with the DEP’s Bureau of Beaches and Coastal Systems. The economic benefits apply not only to individual property owners, but also to the area’s economy in general, as well as the county property tax collections. Healthy beaches also contribute to federal, state, and local tax bases, providing increased income and employment opportunities for residents as well as increased visitor spending.
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Has there been any impact on the habitat, specifically turtle nesting?
Sea turtles have difficulty nesting on an eroding beach, and those nests are more susceptible to overwash and predators. On a narrow or nonexistent beach, birds have no place to nest or feed. The profile of much of our 10 mile beach has become primarily a deep scarp at the edge of the bluff or dune, and the highest tides continue to wash up to that scarp line. Sea turtles will not nest in wet sand or climb a 90 degree incline to reach dry sand. Nests created in vulnerable areas are in danger of damage or wash-out by storms or high tides.
Our property owners are very concerned about maintaining the turtle habitat, many “adopt” turtle nests in support of the local Turtle Patrol, and some are volunteer members of the Patrol. In the critically eroded areas, we have observed a reduced number of attempted nests as well as over wash of laid nests during high tides.
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Is our erosion situation unique?
Perhaps what is most unique about our situation is that we are fortunate in that we are being faced with these erosion issues much later than other coastal areas, in Florida and other coastal states. Numerous other shorelines have already been protected through restoration and other means since the 1970s.
The state of Florida recognizes the serious implications of beach erosion. “Because beach erosion is a serious menace to the economy and general welfare of the people of this state and has advanced to emergency proportions, it is hereby declared to be a necessary governmental responsibility to properly manage and protect Florida beaches fronting on the Atlantic ocean, gulf of Mexico, and straits of Florida from erosion and that the legislature make provision for beach restoration and nourishment projects . . .” [Florida statutes 161.088]
There are more than 50 beach nourishment projects currently being monitored by the Florida DEP. Other coastal states have numerous projects as well. Many of you may remember the devastating erosion in Jacksonville Beach, St Augustine Beach, and South Amelia Island before those beaches were nourished and restored.
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Is there a solution to the erosion problem? Yes, restoring sand to our "starved" beach. Beach nourishment is the best long-term option for restoring and protecting our beach.
What is beach nourishment?
A beach nourishment project typically involves dredging beach-compatible sand from an offshore site and pumping it onto the beach, or truck hauling sand from a land site to the beach, and then moving it around with bulldozers to achieve the designed shape. The sand may be placed both above and below the water level of the beach, elevating and widening the beach and constructing or inflating dunes. The design includes additional “sacrificial sand,” which is intended to feed the expected erosion that occurs over the life of the project, both slowly and rapidly, as in normal current redistribution of the sand and during storms. Restoring (the initial nourishment) or maintaining (subsequent nourishment) a beach is not a new process. This is a proven, DEP acceptable, environmentally-friendly method of preserving the dunes, the turtle and other coastal wildlife habitat, and the quality of life for all of us who love the beach. There are a number of other solutions that are either no longer permitted (e.g., rock revetment), or are in experimental stages (e.g., removable porous groin), or not appropriate to the scope and conditions of our coast.
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What are the benefits of beach nourishment?
It has been demonstrated from both field studies and theory that a wide beach provides significant benefits in the form of storm damage reduction. During storms, a wide beach absorbs the wave energy rather than impacting on the upland structures and infrastructure. The storm damage reduction benefits of beach nourishment projects have been well established. The protection extends to all the properties behind it – including the roads, buildings, and sewer and water lines. That means fewer flood insurance claims and disaster assistance requests.
Beach nourishment can also improve habitat for sea turtles, sea birds and beach flora. An eroded beach removes the habitat for sandy beach creatures and so nourishment is a positive contribution. There are numerous controls in place to protect the environment during the nourishment process.
An additional important benefit of nourishment is that after a beach has been nourished, and if it also meets certain Federal criteria, it will be considered an engineered beach and will qualify for FEMA funding assistance to repair extensive storm damage. Following a declared disaster, FEMA will pay for up to 75 percent of recovery efforts for the nourishment of an engineered beach.
Finally, restoration of property values should follow the nourishment of the beach.
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How long does a beach nourishment last?
Some of our property owners expressed concern that beach nourishments don’t last. That is often true. Beach nourishment usually has a finite lifetime and some maintenance is almost always required. There are instances where the nourished beach has continued to grow naturally, adding secondary and even tertiary dunes. The time between projects, when required, and the extensiveness of those projects, is predicted at the time of initial design but cannot be guaranteed. In addition, the project expects, and designs for, expected erosion that occurs over the life of the project, both slowly and rapidly, as in normal redistribution and storms. This is referred to as “sacrificial sand.”
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How soon could we have a beach nourishment project?
The process for beach nourishment is lengthy and constrained by State and Federal standards. A non-Federal beach nourishment project usually takes more than 2 years, due to typical challenges encountered regarding engineering, permitting, and financing. In contrast, a Federal beach nourishment project has more requirements to be met (such as the project must be considered of “benefit to the nation”), requires multiple Congressional authorizations and separate Federal funding appropriations, and takes many more years to complete.
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How much will a beach nourishment cost?
The exact cost of the project depends on many factors, such as length of shoreline, width of beach, and the source of sand and the associated process for moving the sand. The exact cost will not be known until after a feasibility study and then the detailed engineering analysis and design are completed, and contractors have submitted bids for the project. Similar projects have cost in the range of $1.5-4 million per mile . So, for the entire 10 miles of our coastline, the cost could be $15-40 million; if only the critically eroded sections were nourished, the cost could be $5-11 million.
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Who would pay for our beach nourishment project?
Funding the project in cooperation with the State of Florida is the most expeditious way to fund a beach nourishment. The project would seek to maximize its qualification for matching funds from the State DEP, and to finance the project cost over several years through a county financing vehicle such as a Municipal Services Benefit Unit (MSBU). Numerous coastal areas, within the State of Florida as well as in other coastal states, are funding beach nourishments this way.
At the State level, the Florida Beach Erosion Control Program is the primary vehicle for implementing a state-wide beach management effort. The Program works in concert with local, state, and federal government entities. Financial assistance in an amount up to 50% (dependent on meeting numerous criteria such as public access and parking) of project costs is available to Florida’s county and municipal government districts or special taxing districts for shore protection and preservation activities.
The State of Florida has previously budgeted $30,000,000 per year in matching funds for local government beach erosion control projects, and more for hurricane or other emergency conditions, but budgets are no longer as sacred as they used to be. In addition, there is a waiting list for projects, and a ranking process to determine which will be funded first.
We have already benefited from this State financial assistance in that our Feasibility Study, which cost $280,000, qualified for matching funds from the State DEP, so that the property owners’ cost was only $140,000. To qualify for as much as 50% state matching funds toward the subsequent (and much more expensive) engineering and construction tasks, two requirements must be met: first, the Beach must be declared “Critically Eroded” by the FDEP, and second, requirements for public access and parking must be met. Part of the beach is already designated critically eroded, from R84-R98 and R109-R117. Currently public access and parking is limited particularly in the South Ponte Vedra Blvd segment of the beach, but numerous accesses are platted and could be made available. We previously requested that the County explore the possibilities of additional parking and marked accesses, but to date no progress has been made. It is important to note that it is possible to obtain DEP permits and nourish a segment of beach that is not determined to be critically eroded, or for which public parking and access does not meet state requirements; however there will not be matching funds for that segment of the project. Numerous other beach nourishment projects in the State are composed of multiple segments that meet the requirements to different degrees.
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What is an MSBU?
The Municipal Service Benefit Unit (MSBU) is a special financing vehicle commonly used by a County for sewer lines, water lines, and paving of dirt roads, but which also can be used for beach nourishment projects.
The MSBU is a financing vehicle wherein the cost of a project can be financed over a period of years using low-interest, tax-exempt county bonds. The County borrows the money and pays for the project, then repays the bonds with funds collected from the affected property owners via an assessment included on their annual property tax bill. Other municipalities in Florida as well as in other states have funded, or are in the process of funding, beach nourishment using this vehicle. Some examples include: Amelia Island, Navarre Beach, Longboat Key, Stump Pass, Gasperilla Island, Okaloosa Island and City of Destin. Others, for example Captiva, Marco Island/Collier County, Vanderbilt Beach, Hutchinson Island, and St Joseph Peninsula Beach, are using variations such as MSTUs or special taxing districts.
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Will the Federal Government contribute toward our beach nourishment?
The Federal Feasibility Study for St Johns County, which initially included the critically eroded Vilano Beach segment and Summerhaven, was initiated in 2005. In 2007, South Ponte Vedra Beach was added to the scope of the study. The study is still incomplete, and has been slowed by lack of funding. It is not known how many more years until its completion. Once the study is funded and completed, it is doubtful that a Federal nourishment project for our beach would be authorized. If it is subsequently authorized, there is still great uncertainty as to if or when funding for the nourishment construction project would be appropriated.
Note that the Federal government does not consider beach nourishment a priority, and Federal funds have been appropriated for such projects only once every seven years or so, other than in states of emergency such as following a major storm and when very stringent criteria are met. If a study does result in recommendations for a Federal construction project, a Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) first separately authorizes a construction project. However, having authorization is only part of the Federal process, since each project must also have an appropriation to fund the work. Many of the projects authorized in WRDA are stalled in their wait for funding from future fiscal year budgets.
Even in cases where it can be shown that some action taken by the Federal government contributed to the beach erosion, the process for study, approval, and funding appropriation to restore the beach takes many years. A common example is the erosive impact on a beach downdrift of an inlet created by dredging, such as the St Augustine Inlet (there are numerous other such examples).
For example, the St Augustine Beach Nourishment project was originally authorized in 1986, its authorization then revised in 1999, and the initial beach nourishment completed in January of 2003. That’s 17 years.
As another example, North Topsail, NC had agreement from the Federal government in 2002 to help fund a nourishment project in 2007, but that was slipped to a 2009 project, and then slipped again. As of 2014, the town completed the first segment of the project and is in the process of approving alternative funding sources and Municipal Service Districts so that it can construct its Shore Protection Project.
Because the federal process takes so long and it is doubtful that a “federal interest” in our area would be identified, we are continuing to focus our effort on the local and state-only approach for the initial nourishment. Our best hope from the Federal process is that a subsequent nourishment might be included in a Federal program. Other municipalities, such as Okaloosa Island and the City of Destin, have chosen the same path. That is, they are funding an initial beach nourishment through a cooperative effort with the State only, while concurrently proceeding along the long process to attempt to secure Federal funds. If the Federal approval and funding is ultimately secured, a subsequent maintenance nourishment project could be constructed under the Federal process.
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How much will it cost an individual property owner?
As mentioned before, the exact cost of the project depends on many factors, such as length of shoreline, width of beach, and the source of sand and the associated process for moving the sand. The exact cost will not be known until after a feasibility study and then the detailed engineering analysis and design are completed, and contractors have submitted bids for the project. Similar projects have cost in the range of $1.5-4 million per mile. For the calculation below we’ve assumed a cost of $2.5 million per mile, inclusion of the full 10 miles of coastline, and qualification for full 50% state matching funds. The funding period of 7 years is used, because that is the average length of time until a follow-up beach nourishment might be required. One can easily adjust the bottom line annual cost to different assumptions. For example, less is less than 10 miles is nourished, double if zero state matching funds, double for a 150 foot lot, or add 50% more if our costs come closer to $4million/mile. Even at triple the cost estimate, the annual expense buys a great deal of protection and peace of mind during our frequent storm events, as well as restored beauty and habitat.
Rough Cost Estimate (rounded):
|Project Cost, assuming
$2.5 million/mile for 10 miles
|Reduced project costs, assuming full 50% match by State
|Annual payment against cost, with 5.5% bond interest,
and county administrative fees
|Annual payment allocated per foot of oceanfront
|Annual payment for 75 foot oceanfront lot
Some property owners are concerned that this is yet another significant annual expense that may not be affordable. Although the payment mechanism is in the form of an annual tax assessment, it is useful to consider the payment as if it were an insurance premium to insure the land that you own. Homeowners hazard, wind, and flood insurances all provide compensation to restore the structures on the property; but none of those insurances compensate for the lost sand (and resulting receding property line). It is also helpful to compare the cost of an individual property owner’s share of nourishment (which provides substantial storm protection) to the cost of constructing coastal armoring, which provides much less substantial long-term protection and is not permissible for everyone.
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Will the GTM NERR support or oppose a beach nourishment?
Some of our property owners have expressed concern that nothing can be done because much of the affected coastline is part of the GTM NERR. We have met with the NERR Director at GTM, and confirmed the NERR is as concerned about the impacts of the erosion as we are, and it is not opposed to beach nourishment as a solution so long as the appropriate studies are done and the criteria for nourishment are met.
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What does a beach restoration project involve?
What is the first step in a beach restoration project?
The first step is a feasibility study, which is now underway and proceeding on schedule. That is followed by definition of the MSBU, development of cost estimates and the cost-sharing formula for property owners, formation of the MSBU, establishment of the funding, final geotechnical investigation, final engineering design and permitting, and finally the beach restoration. The beach restoration must be scheduled to comply with various environmental constraints, including weather seasons and coastal wildlife seasons. Following the restoration, a monitoring and maintenance plan will be established.
The Florida DEP defines standard work plans, technical specifications, and permit requirements for the engineering of coastal erosion control projects. The major engineering steps include Feasibility Study, Design and Permitting, Construction, and Monitoring.
The Feasibility Study develops an understanding of the coastal processes affecting the project area and determines the feasibility and extent of improvements necessary to restore the beach, usually involving beach restoration. Beach restoration generally involves extending the beach through a process of dredging sand and returning it to the beach. St Johns County selected PBS&J as the engineering firm for the Feasibility Study. So far, only the Feasibility Study is funded.
Upon completion of the Feasibility Study, the detailed Geotechnical Investigation (sand search) and detailed Design and Permitting are next. The minimum duration for these tasks is 18 months and they could take longer. Once completed and permits are approved, contractor selection and project construction can begin.
Once implemented, the project will become an ongoing process which will include monitoring and usually also includes maintenance (adding additional sand) every 5 to 7 years to maintain the beach.
The Schedule below, which illustrates the earliest construction could begin, should be considered notional only, since delays are inevitable and funding for tasks beyond the Feasibility Study has not been identified.
||January - December
|Final Design and
|Bid Package Prep and
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What is the Feasibility Study?
The purpose of the study is to provide a clear understanding of the coastal processes affecting the project area (from the northern end of South Ponte Vedra Beach to St Augustine Inlet) and to recommend a practical shore stabilization solution. Key elements of the study include:
and organize historical and current data.
public access criteria for potential cost sharing.
influence and impact of St Augustine Inlet and Porpoise Point.
implications of increased armoring structures within the project area.
potential borrow source material (e.g., offshore sand reserves) with
individual project reaches versus one large project area.
estimated costs with associated benefits and identify potential funding
funding eligibility through state and federal programs.
with state and federal agencies on preferred stabilization solutions.
the County in evaluating potential local funding sources (e.g.,
special assessments, municipal benefit service unit (MSBU).
The study will result in presentation and evaluation of alternative shoreline stabilization solutions as well as a recommended project design and probable costs. The alternative solutions might include emergency sand replenishment, beach restoration, improvements to Inlet jetties, no action, and others. Each alternative will be evaluated for longevity, cost sharing eligibility, performance, environmental impacts and permitting constraints, and shore protection value. Workshops to present and explain the results will be scheduled in the coming months, , so please watch for announcements of these events. In parallel with the engineering project, we are working with the County to establish the MSBU for financing the project. The Feasibility Study results will be needed before the boundary of the MSBU can be determined. The probable costs will then be used to estimate the individual property owner’s annual expense; the exact amount will be adjusted as the project costs become more exact. Subsequently, property owners in the area benefiting from beach restoration will be voting to establish the MSBU.
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Is there anything a property owner can do before the beach is nourished?
What can I do immediately to help?
We continue to remind everyone to be protective of the existing dunes, and diligent in beach preservation activities such as leaving dunes intact, installing sand fence (in locations where the sand stays relatively dry), planting native vegetation, and following rules and regulations regarding the design and construction of walkovers and stairs.
Property owners should monitor and record the movement of the sand – taking photos from constant reference points, and measuring the depth and location of their bluff and vegetation line (relative to their property survey, existing survey markers or monuments, walkovers, etc.) as well as the depth of the sand. Without the reference point, it is very easy to become adjusted to the changed profiles of the dunes and beach slope and to lose sight of what they were before.
If you have not yet joined us, we invite you to become a contributing member of the Association. We appreciate the efforts of all of our participating and supportive members and especially of our very active volunteers who have been working diligently to achieve our successes to date. We appreciate additional volunteers in the areas of membership, communications, newsletter, mailings, fund raising, civic action, web site, etc. So please contact us if you wish to help.
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