Jacksonville, Florida (Oct. 4, 2022) – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, dispatched seven inspection teams around the state of Florida Sunday, Oct. 2, to conduct preliminary damage assessments to federal coastal storm risk management projects impacted by Hurricane Ian.
The missions were to determine the extent of damage caused by the hurricane and begin a process of determining which projects would require federally funded restoration assistance.
In the Jacksonville area, coastal engineer team lead Mike Neves and junior coastal engineer Dillon Sypula met at Vilano Beach with counterparts from the St. Johns County coastal environmental department and Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) for an on-beach assessment.
They stopped intermittently along the three-mile stretch of the federal project to measure, photograph and document beach and adjacent infrastructure conditions, recording heights and distances to assess Ian impacts to dunes, berms and beaches.
“We’re out here assessing the post-storm condition to estimate the magnitude of erosion and damage,” said Neves.
“Boots on the ground, pretty much,” said Sypula.
After the Vilano inspection, the party moved farther south to the St. Augustine Beach project, which runs some 2.6 miles from the southern portion of Anastasia State Park through the northern reach of the City of St. Augustine Beach.
The team noted extensive storm impact in some stretches of the project. Large revetment stones abutting a hotel complex near Pope Road lay exposed to the elements, their sand cover having been in places completely washed away.
Farther south, the team was encouraged to find sections of berm remaining in place, having blunted Ian’s storm surge and providing anchor points for future beach restoration.
Neves said similar inspections in Duval and Flagler Counties would be undertaken in the following days.
Data from the assessments will be reviewed for further study and potential action, including USACE intervention to restore damaged beaches to their pre-storm construction templates. USACE non-federal sponsor (NFS) partners will have until Oct. 30, 2022, to apply for rehabilitation assistance under Public Law 84-99, said Trisston Brown, chief of project management in the district’s coastal and navigation section.
Under the law’s provisions, the NFS must establish two main criteria: that the significant damage resulted from what USACE defines as an “Extraordinary Storm,” and that the economic loss be above a minimum damage threshold, said Brown.
“The cost of the construction to repair the coastal storm risk management project, or separable parts of it, would have to exceed $1 million dollars and be greater than two percent of the original construction cost,” he said.
Letters advising NFS partners of the application window have already been mailed. Requests for restoration assistance will result in Jacksonville District completing a Project Information Report, which would be submitted to USACE Headquarters in Washington, D.C., for review and a decision. Qualified and approved requests would result in restoration work being 100 percent funded by the federal government, Brown said.
Elsewhere around the state, Matt Trammell of the district’s engineering branch and Ashleigh Fountain of project management conducted similar on-the-beach tours on the Gulf Coast at Sand Key, Treasure Island and Long Key. They collaborated with representatives of Pinellas County, the NFS of USACE beach projects at all three locations, and a representative of FDEP in making their initial assessments.
“We surveyed the federal project extents and didn’t see signs of major damage from the storm,” said Fountain, an encouraging sign that previous decades of beach renourishment and risk management had succeeded in blunting more extensive damage from Ian to residents and infrastructure.
Farther south, coastal engineer Gabe Todaro and project manager Manny Vianzon conducted inspections of USACE shore protection projects at Venice, Gasparilla Island and Captiva along with representatives from each project’s NFS, the City of Venice, Lee County and the Captiva Erosion Protection District, respectively.
“Venice was in fairly good shape except for one spot where the dune got washed out,” said Todaro. “At Gasparilla Island the beach looked lower than it was before, but it looked like it was in pretty good shape.
“The worst was Captiva in Lee County. We were able to travel there and land at one place, and there’s just a lot of damage. The beach is in pretty rough shape,” he said.