Seawall a continuing priority

Last week, Historic City News reported that the City commission signed on to a “Memorandum of Agreement” to bring the city one step closer to the approval of funding for the Seawall Project south of the Bridge of Lions.

The memorandum satisfies historic and environmental requirements of the project application.

The next step will be approval of a funding contract with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The $7.092 million project requires 75% from FEMA and $2 million in city matching funds.

The Florida National Guard, whose headquarters are at the south end of the 1,200-foot project extending from the Santa Maria Restaurant, joined with the city in the application.

“Built in the 1840’s by graduates of West Point, spanning the bay front of downtown St. Augustine, the seawall was designed to provide flood control and stabilize the shoreline,” according to a Guard statement.

“However, over 160 years of regular tides and frequent hurricanes, the coquina and mortar of the wall have deteriorated to allow frequent flooding events. The crumbling seawall not only puts the nation’s oldest city at risk of flood damage, but it also compromises access to the Florida National Guard headquarters.”

City Manager John Regan told commissioners last week as they approved a Memorandum of Agreement with FEMA, “The priority from the beginning has been preservation of the historic coquina seawall.”

Public Works Director Martha Graham notes, “The point of constructing a new seawall east of the existing wall is so that the historic wall can be preserved, which is paramount, even over the flooding.”

The plan is to construct a new seawall twelve feet further into the bay, along a 1,200-foot range.

The current concrete “ding wall” would be removed and ground elevation lowered to expose 2-3 feet of the original seawall.

A 12-foot area between the original and new seawalls would be filled and capped with a coquina/concrete surface as a promenade.

The new seawall would be four feet from grade to maximize viewing of the bay from Avenida Menendez.

This quote from the National Guard understates the urgency of correcting the failing seawall, “The seawall has failed, continues to fail and must be addressed quickly.”

Design work began twelve years ago, and the project was “shovel ready” for federal stimulus funding, but other national projects prevailed.

The current funding effort is focused on FEMA, and cites “significant damage to the St. Augustine Seawall during Tropical Storm Faye in 2008.”

In the past twelve years the seawall has been breached numerous times, including the 2004 “Season of Hurricanes.”

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