City, USACE appear to have found a way forward to repair marina attenuator

Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
April 4, 2018 6:00 p.m.


Fernandina Beach City Commissioner (FBCC) Chip Ross brought some good news to the FBCC and citizens during the FBCC’s Regular Meeting on April 3, 2018.  He revealed that the previous afternoon, thanks to efforts of city lobbyist Arthur I. “Buddy” Jacobs, Florida Inland Navigation District (FIND) Commissioner Lynn Williams and Tim Murphy, the Jacksonville Director of the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), a way had been identified for the city to proceed to repair the city marina attenuator (breakwater dock) that did not involve moving the federal navigation channel and costly dredging.

As may be seen in the diagram below, the existing attenuator lies almost exactly on the channel marker from Brett’s northward; the southern portion lies approximately 70 feet from the channel:

Yellow portion indicates existing docks; blue, proposed. Hashed gray lines indicate existing navigation channel. Hashed red lines show where channel would need to be moved for the city’s docks to conform with current USACE guidance.

Although FEMA had approved rebuilding the existing attenuator in its current location, the USACE decreed that according to current agency guidance, any reconstruction or new construction had to be at a distance of 100 feet at a minimum from any officially designated navigation channel.  It seemed as though the only possibility of moving forward rested with the USACE agreeing to move the navigation channel to the west.

Ross said that USACE had adamantly refused to consider moving the navigation channel, which has not been used for ocean going ships since the 1980’s.  Such a decision meant that repairing the existing attenuator and fuel dock were, to use a phase, dead in the water, as well as any plans to extend the attenuator further north.

But in discussion the previous day the parties apparently discovered a way around the impasse, called a “408 permit process.”  In layman’s terms, this process is a way to request a variance from the USACE to allow repairs and construction to proceed  with a caveat: if in the future the USACE decides to reactivate the channel, the city will need to remove the docks that impinge upon the navigation channel.   The likelihood of such action, however, appears to be slim.

Because speed is of the essence in proceeding with the 408 permit process, Commissioners directed City Manager Dale Martin to work with ATM representative Rob Semmes to send the appropriate requesting letters to USACE within the next 24-48 hours. According to Ross, no additional dredging will be required in connection with the request, which is expected to take 6-8 weeks to process.

FIND Commissioner Lynn Williams added that the request could be processed more quickly if the Ocean Highway and Port Authority (OHPA), the channel sponsor, also supports it.  Ross added that the USACE will explain the action in more detail at the next scheduled OHPA meeting on April 11, 2018 at 6:00 p.m. at the Nassau County Page Governmental Center in Yulee, FL.  The meeting is open to the public.

When Commissioner Roy Smith asked why he had not been informed of this development during a meeting with the city manager the previous day, Ross replied that the city manager did not yet know about it.  The plan had not yet crystallized until later in the day, when all the parties appeared to agree.

Ross closed out the discussion by again crediting the people who came up with the plan as well as the good offices of Sen. Bill Nelson, Sen. Marco Rubio, and Rep. John Rutherford.

Editor’s Note: Suanne Z. Thamm is a native of Chautauqua County, NY, who moved to Fernandina Beach from Alexandria,VA, in 1994. As a long time city resident and city watcher, she provides interesting insight into the many issues that impact our city. We are grateful for Suanne’s many contributions to the Fernandina Observer.

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Dave Lott
Dave Lott(@dave-l)
5 years ago

Great news! Thanks to all for looking at all the possible options and finding this waiver.

Robert Warner
Robert Warner (@guest_50748)
5 years ago
Michael Miller
Michael Miller(@michael)
5 years ago

Thanks for a well written article. Thanks to Chip Ross for seemingly being everywhere in a proactive way, working in our interests and getting results. It is rare to see a public official be involved in so many issues, in such a short span of time, with as much effective results. I feel truly represented by Chip Ross. I thank you for your commitment, hard work and results.