Hurricane Irene Could Delay St. Augustine Dredging Project | Weather
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- Hurricane Irene's impact on recent dredging at the St. Augustine Inlet is expected to be minimal, but it could delay a bigger project in the fall.
Two weeks ago the Army Corps of Engineers removed about 4,500 cubic yards of sand from the inlet channel to improve boaters navigation.
"Even though (Irene) would kick up big ground swells, I just doubt it will have any serious impact on the channel as far as shifting sand and that kind of thing," said Carl Blow, a commissioner on the Florida Inland Navigational District and an expert on St. Augustine area waterways.
The recent dredging was an emergency because boats were running aground in the narrowing channel. It was dangerous and impacting local marinas, which were seeing fewer visitors to the nation's oldest city.
"This past spring we were losing customers who were bypassing us,' said Jim Piggott, a spokesperson for the city of St. Augustine, who oversees the city marina."
Boaters did not feel safe coming into the city area."
That did improve navigation and word is out boaters can now enter the channel. A much bigger dredging project is set for the fall. Seven times the amount of sand will be removed and the channel will be 200 yards wider, but Hurricane Irene could possibly delay that project.
"My concern is there could be a lot of damage in North Carolina. That is where the dredge boat Currituc is based, and if they have to keep the Currituc up there for damage repair, it could delay its return to St. Augustine," said Blow.
The fall dredging project will cost about $300,000 and will be paid for by the St. Augustine Port, Waterway and Beach District.
"You can't tell Mother Nature what to do," said Piggott. "We could be worrying about much worse things happening here, so if we are willing to wait an extra month if that is what it takes to open our inlet."
If the project is complete in October it would be ideal, because during that time of year boaters traveling south drop in on St. Augustine, spending money at restaurants and historic sites.
Piggott said as many at 400-500 boats visit each month during winter.