Submitted by Chip Ross
Fernandina Beach City Commissioner
May 10, 2018
In Northeast Florida and Georgia there are two types of marinas. Those that are being dredged and those that are going to need to be dredged. The question of dredging to maintain a useable marina is not if the marina will need dredging, but how often and how much will be need to be dredged?
Mud currently engulfs the City of Fernandina Beach Marina. Two previous decisions primarily caused this predicament. The first decision occurred in the late 1980’s. The Marina was built with slips and walkways perpendicular to the flow of the river. These barriers to the water flow caused the water to slow and sediment to settle out and accumulate – similar to snow fences causing snow drifts. Although debated for years, no City Commission ever corrected the design error.
Secondly, two years ago the City Commissioners decided not to do maintenance dredging after Hurricane Matthew. The destruction of the attenuator [wave breaker and outer dock] drove the decision. As the water in the Marina became shallower, the rate of siltation accelerated. Because no dredging has been done in four years, the Marina is now inundated with mud with a limited amount of usable slips.
Five basic options exist to resolve the problem.
- Sell the Marina and let the buyer fix the problem.
- Do nothing.
- Dredge the current Marina at a cost of approximately a million dollars. The mud will likely reaccumulate in approximately two years.
- Abandon the Southern part of the Marina and build new piers to the North.
- Remove most of the existing docks, dredge, and then reconfigure the Southern Marina to correct the original design flaw, to decrease the frequency and amount of dredging.
Although advocated by some, I believe options 1 and 2 are unacceptable. The Marina is a key component of the economic and recreational hub of the Historic downtown. The Marina creates a busy waterfront with a lively ambiance delighting thousands of residents and visitors year-round.
Dredging [Option 3], without changing the Marina design simply repeats the past. The definition of psychosis is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. I do not support this option.
Extending the piers to the North and abandoning the South [Option 4] has been advocated in the past. The grant funding for the northern expansion depends on providing transient slips only and would eliminate local use. Additionally, many of the grants that were obtained to build the Southern docks were dependent on agreeing to continue the use of the Southern Marina. Some of those grants would likely need to repaid. I do not believe this to be a viable option.
I believe the way forward is to:
- Repair the attenuator dock as is currently planned. This should be finished by the end of the year.
- Move the current long-term slip holders to the repaired attenuator dock.
- Remove the current docks that are perpendicular to the flow of water. [Estimated cost $130,000 +/-]
- Dredge the Marina. The amount of mud is estimated at 30,000 cubic yards which would coast approximately one million dollars.
- Reconstruct the marina using the 8-foot wide walkways that were removed, to form a 770-foot-long floating pier that would run parallel to the existing attenuator. This design would not substantially block the flow of water and should result in less frequent dredging needs. [Estimated cost $650,000 +/-] This plan has been vetted by ATM, an engineering firm hired by the City to recommend a solution.
The total estimated cost would be approximately 1.78 million dollars. The Florida Inland Navigational District will likely award the City $380,000 for dredging. The City would need to contribute $1,400,000. This money would need to be borrowed and paid back over time.
For years the City Commission has talked about providing a functional marina. All five current City Commissioners have previously promised to “fix” the Marina. If followed, option five could be completed by next Spring .
This topic has been put on the 15 May 2018 City Commission meeting as a discussion item. The time has come to stop talking and fix the Marina.