South Ponte Vedra Beach

and Vilano Beach

South Ponte Vedra-Vilano Beach
Restoration Association, Inc.

Frequently Asked Questions Page (FAQ's)

We hope that the following questions and answers will help you understand the reason that South Ponte Vedra-Vilano Beach Restoration Association, Inc. was formed. . 

Each of the categorized questions has one or more detailed questions and answers to further explain the specific process of our beach restoration. You can always click on "Main" to start back at the original categories.

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.
  1. 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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  2. 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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  3. 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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  4. 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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  5. 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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  6. 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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  7. 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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  8. 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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  9. 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 $25,000,000
    Reduced project costs, assuming full 50% match by State DEP $12,500,000
    Annual payment against cost, with 5.5% bond interest, and county administrative fees $2,200,000
    Annual payment allocated per foot of oceanfront $41
    Annual payment for 75 foot oceanfront lot $3,125

    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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  10. 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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