Wednesday, March 23, 2016

$2.9 million for Summer Haven River dredging for the wealthiest's vacation homes; not one penny for poor people in West Augustine: GOVER NOR SCOTT's Budget Priorities

Environmental racism on display: On March 17, 2016, a date that will live in infamy, Florida Governor RICK SCOTT vetoed $200,000 for engineering work on West Augustine sewers for a lon-oppressed African-American neighborhood. Yet that same day, Governor SCOTT signed a controversial earmark appropriation for Summer Haven river dredging benefitting the wealthiest -- $2.9 million. Remember the greediest!

Summer Haven River to be restored 

Posted: March 21, 2016 - 11:51pm  |  Updated: March 22, 2016 - 1:46pm

Satellite photographs show the Summer Haven River before it filled with sand.
Satellite photographs show the Summer Haven River before it filled with sand. 

Summer Haven River to be restored
Posted: March 21, 2016 - 11:51pm | Updated: March 22, 2016 - 1:46pm

Satellite photographs show the Summer Haven River before it filled with sand.

Florida’s budget includes more than $2.8 million for the Summer Haven River, a water body that once mingled with the Matanzas Inlet but is now filled with sand.

The funding will go toward dredging and restoration of the river, a once-popular recreation spot.

“We will have the Summer Haven River back,” Sen. Travis Hutson said on Monday.

The river began filling with sand after dunes were breached in 2008, according to a previous St. Augustine Record report. People in the community and elsewhere have pushed for the river’s restoration.

“We’ve said all along that the river has environmental value, economic, historic, recreational, safety, and educational value,” said Linda Ginn, president of Friends of the Summer Haven River.

Gov. Rick Scott signed a roughly $82 billion budget last week, according to the Associated Press. Some local items were cut from the budget, including upgrades to West Augustine’s sewer system.

However, the budget provides funding for local projects such as $152,500 for the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum, according to Hutson’s office.

The budget also includes $1 million for restoration at a couple of Flagler College buildings that are part of the former Hotel Ponce de Leon complex, said Flagler College President William Abare Jr.

Hotel Ponce de Leon was commissioned by Henry Flagler.

The lighthouse plans to fund upgrades of World War II-era buildings, among other things, said Kathy Fleming, lighthouse and museum executive director.

The Summer Haven River has received state funding before.

In 2015, the state approved $400,000 to create final plans and bid packages for contractors who will apply to be hired to remove the sand, according to a previous St. Augustine Record report.

That funding is still being used.

The project design is nearly finished, and bidding is expected to open this summer, said Ken Craig, vice president of coastal engineering for Taylor Engineering.

Taylor Engineering is the project engineer, and project funding is being managed by the St. Augustine Port, Waterway and Beach District.

The construction phase of the project will move sand from the previous path of the river, Craig said. That sand will go back to the beach and create a dune system.

The project will also create an alternative habitat nearby for birds that have used the sand-filled river as a nesting site, he said.

Construction should take about six months once the project starts, and one of the project permits doesn’t allow work to begin until Nov. 1, Craig said. But officials are looking into whether that restriction could be changed.

After the beginning of the state fiscal year on July 1, the port district and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection can enter a contract for use of the new $2.8 million in funding, Craig said.

“We know we have our money now. ... It’s just finalizing the details,” he said.

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