ST. JOHNS, Fla. — It’s a decade-old issue in St. Johns County and the beach at Summer Haven again opened up to new problems.
Another breach to the dune threatens several homes and leaves many off the power grid. The solution to the ongoing problem could cost tens of millions in federal, state and county funding, according to one commissioner.
“We face an almost impossible task to provide continual protection from the ocean, from the storm surges to those homes,” said Commissioner Henry Dean.
The issue is two-fold. The county is required to maintain Old A1A, which Nicole washed away after the county just finished with temporary repairs following Ian. Five homes currently can’t be accessed without a boat.
The other issue is storm surge is pushing sand into the Summer Haven River, threatening the river and 275 homes and the Intracoastal that sits west of A1A.
“The beach you think you’re seeing, you’re not. That’s actually sand debris that’s in the river. So now the ocean and the river are actually one,” said Dennis Martin. He lives in the last house on Old A1A on the north side which is protected by a rock wall. Still, he said he’s looking to move his retirement home elsewhere after consistent problems with storms in Summer Haven.
“When we retire, we want to actually be able to relax and enjoy things a little bit and not be quite this stressed,” he said.
Martin said crews should put up a rock wall along the rest of Old A1A since that’s the only thing that stands up to storms. Commissioner Dean said it’s unlikely the Department of Environmental Protection would approve it.
He suggested purchasing 15 homes threatened by the surge and condemning them. He said it would take approximately $20 million if the county partnered with federal and state entities. He said it would be cheaper than paying to maintain Old A1A in the long run.
“I think it would be less expensive to the taxpayer to enter into the acquisition of those homes.”
The county agreed to pay $400,000 for a study that is still ongoing. The results are expected early next year, which will help commissioners determine how to move forward.
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