A wall of controversy

Research by Historic City News reporters reveals that the West Point Army Corps of Engineers completed construction of the seawall south of the current Bridge of Lions when Florida was in its earliest days as a territory of the United States.

As far as we can determine, it has been a bone of contention, ever since.

When Bay Street was widened to four lanes in 1959, construction of the section of the seawall north of the Bridge of Lions was extended outward; into the bay.

St. Augustinians, like many coastal inhabitants, realized early-on the critical importance of the seawall. As early as 1690, citizens of the Spanish colonial town petitioned the king for funds to construct a seawall to protect the low lying community from daily tides and frequent storms.

We don’t have to petition a king anymore, but the need to protect our community from the damage of tidal and storm water has not diminished. Unfortunately, it would seem that despite the awareness of city officials, residents and commissioners, the implementation of an adequate preventive maintenance regimen and an ongoing systematic course of indicated repairs; has, well, “slipped through the cracks”.

Eight years ago when City Manager John Regan was Utilities Director, the city submitted an application to Florida Inland Navigation District for a grant to finance a reconstructed seawall. Citizen meetings were held, $125,000 was budgeted for initial design studies, of course, however, the seawall has yet to be reconstructed — merely patched.

Now the City Commission is supporting a $22.5 million bond issue, with part of the debt reportedly going to retire deferred maintenance of the south seawall — to the tune of $1,500,000 in “matching funds”. Of course, this scenario presumes the city will in fact receive equivalent funds from other, outside sources.

Assistant City Manager Tim Burchfield provided Historic City News with figures on the selected projects to be financed through the $22.5 million bond issue; those figures allocate funds totaling $2.625 million to be used on “storm water projects”.

According to Burchfield, if the city is allowed and able to sell the bonds, there will be enough money to allow the rehabilitation of the seawall south of the Bridge of Lions. “These funds will be repaid from the City’s Utility Fund,” Burchfield said.

Photo credits: © 2010 Historic City News staff photographer

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