Fishweir Creek restoration project moving along in survey, design phase

The Army Corps of Engineers has been moving along with initial design and survey steps for the proposed aquatic habitat ecosystem restoration project on Fishweir Creek. 

Since meeting with residents on both sides of the creek – in Fairfax Manor and the Arden neighborhood – in late September 2018, the Corps has completed its topographic field survey, and is expecting to complete the new channel alignment by the end of May, at which time it will begin a scour analysis to determine how far away from the bridge the dredging portion of the project will need to be.

For several of the property owners along the St. Johns River who expressed concern about installation of an island in the center of the channel, the good news is it might be relocated or possibly even removed from the plan. However, a lot of coordination is required for complete removal. 

“Based on survey data we received, it appears placement of the island in the center of the channel could prove challenging and very costly,” said Jason Harrah, project manager, Water Resources Branch, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “I wouldn’t say, at this time, it’s 100% off the table or would be relocated but we should have a final decision in June. Right now we are working to finalize design of the channel and review real estate ownership from the recent surveys received.” 

Harrah said the topographic field survey, completed at the end of March, has resulted in a second look at the island location. Property owners were concerned it would obstruct their view, attract bugs and floating litter, and not withstand major storms. Harrah said the significant cost to construct a metal wall around the island for stability as well as difficulty in constructing the island to withstand large storm surges from 50- or 100-year storms may change the plan. In addition, material might have to be brought in to construct the island to full design standards, which could prove very costly, he said. 

 “We are now looking into the possibility of expanding the existing marsh area adjacent to Little Fishweir Creek, parallel to Morningside Street, where the docks are,” he said. “This would provide a similar acreage to what was authorized and allow for continued growth of that marsh area back to its natural state before all of the development. If you look at aerial photos from the 1940s/1950s, you can see the marsh was much more expansive. Our goal is to restore this lost marsh area on the northern bank of Fishweir Creek.”

At this time, the City of Jacksonville is reviewing the deeds to the properties where the marsh area may be moved. “If the creek area around these docks is, in fact, owned by the residents, then the City will have to obtain perpetual easements to allow us to construct the expanded marsh,” Harrah said.

 The shoaling analysis will determine whether moving the marsh would impact the future shoaling of the creek and result in more frequent dredging. “Our modelers are working this answer and also making sure that the proposed new channel alignment, widths, depths will all work with future flows from storms, etc.,” said Harrah. 

As regards the scour analysis, which will provide a better understanding of how big the buffers need to be for the bridge, Harrah said it would need to be approved by the Florida Department of Transportation after it is complete at the end of June.

Once both analyses and the City’s review of deeds is complete, the Corps will share the results with FDOT to get approval to move forward with a solid plan. Harrah said they are planning a public meeting late summer/early fall to share the final plan. Watch for meeting details on the Resident Community News Facebook page.

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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