Port District to pay full tab to dredge channel

For the first time since the late 1930’s, the St. Augustine Port, Waterway, and Beach District, has approved the payment of District funds to dredge our federally-designated channel, according to Port Commissioner Jay Bliss.

“Safety” and a “straight channel” were offered as reason for the dredging.

At today’s meeting, on a 3-1 split vote, with Jerry Dixon absent and Jay Bliss dissenting, commissioners approved spending up to $300,000 from District funds to have the 150 ft. U. S. Army Corps of Engineers dredge “Currituck” return to St. Augustine in late August or November.

“Currituck” will dredge some 35,000 cubic yards of sand — which officials say will straighten the entrance channel. “Neither the City of St. Augustine nor the Florida Inland Navigation District chose to contribute to the funding,” Commissioner Bliss said.

“The Coast Guard will always be there to mark a navigable channel,” Bliss noted. “Our inlet is the only one on the east coast of Florida with a standing comment in the U.S. Coast Guard Notice to Mariners advising that the entrance channel is subject to frequent changes in depth and direction due to dangerous and shifting shoals.”

“Nothing will change that unless and until we spend a few million dollars for a long, off-shore jetty … or two,” Bliss believes. “Meanwhile, we will get to see what Mother Nature does to a straight channel.”

In other work being labeled “emergency “, commissioners approved “Currituck” to complete dredging around buoy #5 — with the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers paying the cost.

When they complete their current project in Ponce Inlet, estimated to take another week, “Currituck” will make a 2 or 3 day stopover in St. Augustine as they make their way north.

Bliss explained to Historic City News that the “emergency” status will allow the beach-quality sands dredged around the buoy to be dropped into the water, off the beach, instead of at their preferred location, on the beach.

The next meeting for the Port District has been set for August 16th.

Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News contributed photograph by USACE

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