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Beach erosion leads to emergency declaration off St. Johns shores

Posted: March 13, 2014 - 6:10pm  |  Updated: March 13, 2014 - 6:27pm
Workers start to build a steel wall to protect homes on the beach on the 2800 block of South Ponte Vedra Boulevard from erosion Thursday.
Peter.Willott@staugustine.com
Workers start to build a steel wall to protect homes on the beach on the 2800 block of South Ponte Vedra Boulevard from erosion Thursday.

ST. AUGUSTINE — Workers are not able to construct a sea wall in the backyard of Chuck and Marge Herklotz’s home fast enough.

The couple, who live in the 2800 block of South Ponte Vedra Boulevard, saw a large part of their backyard disappear Wednesday and want to prevent the rest of their property from falling into the Atlantic Ocean.

They decided to build a structure that would stop the losses.

“They’re working on it right now,” Chuck Herklotz said Thursday morning. “Our house is only 14 feet from a 12-foot dropoff.”

Herklotz spoke about his plight at an emergency meeting of the St. Johns County Commission called after a recent “coastal storm” with high winds caused severe erosion to the beach and dune system behind 10 to 12 houses located in the 2800 to the 2900 block of South Ponte Vedra Boulevard.

“There has to be some method where somebody could look at a house and say, ‘Yes, this is a critical condition,’ ” Herklotz said.

Homeowners by law must obtain a permit from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection before they build a sea wall. However, getting that permit takes some time as certain studies must be done first.

The emergency declaration passed Thursday by the County Commission means the affected homeowners — and others “in their vicinity” — are allowed to apply for expedited permits, which take only a day or two.

The proclamation says the affected areas “have become vulnerable to damage or collapse from ongoing wave action or from a subsequent coastal storm,” and include the “paved portion of Old A1A in Summer Haven.”

Bill and Linda Beagle, also in the 2800 block of South Ponte Beach Boulevard, said their house is five houses away from what the county calls the “hot spots” of accelerated erosion.

“We lost 45 feet,” Bill Beagle said of his backyard. “People from up North came in to look at a house near here and when they saw the [eroded] backyard, poof! They left, saying they wanted to check out the river.”

Homebuyers don’t like seeing the ocean that close. Calculating the value that his home had depreciated led him to estimate that the county will lose $1 billion in tax revenue every 10 years at the rate the beach is disintegrating, Bill Beagle said.

“I don’t think any county could handle that loss,” he said.

Linda Beagle said some homes with severe erosion have their septic tanks starting to hang out over the beach.

Commissioner Ron Sanchez said once erosion gets to the septic tank, the Health Department is going to make the resident move out.

County engineer Press Tompkins said a lot of contractors know of the problems and are ready to go. They’re just waiting for the expedited permitting.

“There has to be an imminent danger to a habitable structure,” he said of the OK for rapid permitting to be granted.

On a motion by commission chairman Jay Morris, the emergency measure passed 5-0.

Commissioner Rachael Bennett said the measure has flexibility since it allows expansion to other areas that also may need rapid permitting.

“Wind and water are dynamic forces and we don’t know where or when they will act,” she said.

Comments (5)

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north miami
2714
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north miami 03/13/14 - 10:18 pm
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Premium Member

In fact we do know,and have

In fact we do know,and have long known,with a great level of predictability, how the wind,water and ocean interface dynamic "acts".

Cowford Express
1494
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Cowford Express 03/13/14 - 10:16 pm
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Premium Member

I am curious to see how many

I am curious to see how many of these oceanfront dwellers spend their time raising cane over the size of government and banging public employees over their pensions???

I bet they are just fine with the size of government right now.

Libertariandude
3523
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Libertariandude 03/13/14 - 09:23 pm
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Erosion if not stopped

Erosion if not stopped somewhere, stops nowhere.

traincompbox
1094
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traincompbox 03/13/14 - 09:20 pm
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So who gets to foot the bill

So who gets to foot the bill for this, the county or the homeowner? It is after all private property.

Da Coach
3001
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Da Coach 03/13/14 - 08:02 pm
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Premium Member

How's that exclusive,

How's that exclusive, expensive, water front property working out for you now? You gets what you pay for. Did you really think this out when you thought about buying that water front property, all evidence open to you? Apparently not. Sink or swim. No sympathy here.

Da Coach

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