Historic City News is following the progress of the shoreline stabilization phase of improvements being completed to the manmade reservoir known as “Maria Sanchez Lake.
This morning Historic City News photographer Kerry McGuire went to the site to report on the conditions that were found at the lake and to document the work being undertaken in this second phase of improvements.
Historic City News editor Michael Gold interviewed John P. Regan who is the city’s Chief Operations Officer about the scope and duration of the Maria Sanchez Lake improvements.
When Regan began his employment with the city in 1998 as Utility Director, he recalls that one of his first assignments involved evaluating the issues at the lake which was originally created by construction crews under the employ of Henry Flagler. It seems they needed a source of fill dirt for the Hotel Ponce de Leon.
Working with the neighbors living both east and west as well as the north end of the lake, the city identified three elements which were essential to the health, safety and enjoyment of the lake in the adjoining community.
First of all, the lake is feed by controlled tidal water and storm water drainage that naturally occurs in the area. In addressing the health aspect of the improvements, the city invested in a sophisticated weir system that monitors water quality in real time and adjusts the tidal water accordingly.
“Over the past seven or eight years, we have seen a dramatic decrease in “fish kills” and recognized other measurable signs of improvement to the lake’s quality of water”, said Regan.
Safety concerns, such as road integrity and storm water flow conditions, as well as the aesthetic elements of the improvements, are likewise being addressed.
Other community goals identified in this ongoing process are available to the public by visiting the City of St. Augustine’s website.
The current work being completed by a private contractor (Turnbull) allows the city to stabilize the shoreline in a way that protects the critical fish habitat and does not worsen the lakes important ecosystem.
Broken remnants of concrete construction waste and crumbling concrete pavers have been used in the past to contain the lake. “They have been failing for years”, said Regan.
“We are intervening with about 1200 feet of professionally installed, interlocking barrier wall that will protect the roads, adjacent shoreline and improve the overall appearance for residents and visitors in the neighborhood around the approximately 80 acre body of water.”
Recently, a St. Johns County resident filed a complaint with the National Response Center alleging that the city has “trashed” the Maria Sanchez Lake.
Specifically, Edward A. Slavin, Jr. who lives in Maderia Heights on Anastasia Island, has complained to the National Response Center, a federal emergency hotline available to help stabilize crisis situations, alleging specifically that the lake needs to be saved from the “depredations” of City Manager William Harriss; that is to say that Slavin accuses Harriss of laying waste, plundering and ravaging the lake.
Slavin is an attorney who was disbarred in Tennessee for engaging in misrepresentation and deceit to the courts and his clients, charging excessive fees, violating court orders, failing to preserve client property, demonstrating incompetence and lack of diligence and abusing the legal process by habitually harassing and intimidating officers of the court and opposing counsel by filing abusive, insulting, untrue and unprofessional statements regarding judges, litigants and opposing counsel,
When we asked Regan if he could explain what might be occurring that would necessitate registering an emergency complaint with the National Response Center for the improvements in progress at the Maria Sanchez Lake, he said he had no idea.
“In fact”, Regan said, “I believe we are having the city attorney look into Mr. Slavin’s repeated abuse of the emergency federal hotline to determine what action should be taken.”
Regan told us that he was contacted by a ranking official serving in the United States Coast Guard on “more than one occasion”. The Coast Guard official was prepared to bring in air support and other federal resources because he falsely believed he was responding to a crisis situation disaster call.
Photo credit: Historic City News photographer Kerry McGuire