Big Fishweir Creek restoration contract awarded to San Mateo firm

Big Fishweir Creek restoration contract awarded to San Mateo firm
One of the marine contractor Underwater Mechanix’s project locations. Source:

Dredge moves from plans to implementation

A year-long delay in the procurement process to restore Big Fishweir Creek to a more navigable waterway for water sport enthusiasts and manatees alike is finally over.

And given it followed more than a decade of planning, engineering and budgeting work, all parties are celebrating the $8.2-million contract award by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“The community is very excited about the project and what it will do for our creek,” said John Moran, whose backyard touches the creek, on September 22. “No activity on the creek yet, but the Army Corps let us know that we will likely start seeing some movement at the end of November.”

“Project mobilization is expected within 90 days,” said a recent press release from the federal agency announcing the associated construction contract award in late August.

The contract calls for dredging portions of both the Big and Little fishweir creeks to make the waterways more friendly to boaters, paddlers, wildlife and anglers.

The Army Corps awarded the dredging contract on August 26 to Underwater Mechanix Services, LLC of the San Mateo neighborhood of Jacksonville, “to execute an aquatic ecosystem restoration project at Big Fishweir Creek.”

The total cost of the project has risen by millions during the intervening years. In 2012, the cost estimate was $3.8 million. In more recent years it was estimated at $6.5 million.

The City of Jacksonville and the federal agency have agreed to split the costs 35 percent city and 65 percent federal, however.

Big Fishweir Creek is an urban tributary of the St. Johns River running south of downtown and enters the “big river” just north of the Ortega River.

“Dredged material from Little Fishweir Creek, the channel widener and the main channel will be transported by barge for placement at the Bartram Island Disposal Area,” reads the Army Corps announcement. “Dredged material from the upper reaches of Big Fishweir Creek will be deposited either in an approved upland disposal facility or transported to Bartram Island.”

The contract also includes standard turbidity monitoring, endangered species monitoring, vibration control monitoring, channel debris removal and related incidental work, the Army Corps said.

Jim Suggs, Jacksonville district small projects manager for the Army Corps, said the first step will be the issuance of a notice to proceed within 30 days with the contractor to acknowledge receipt within 30 days. The next 30 days are earmarked for moving equipment and materials to the project site.

“That puts construction starting around the end of November. Construction will start at the mouth of the creek at the river and come inward…” he said by email to interested parties on August 29, when the contract award was announced.

Army Corps spokesman David Ruderman said more than a year ago the local office was eager to begin work, even scouting staging locations for equipment. At the time he hoped for a contract award by the end of September 2021.

“It could slip into a 2022 award,” he accurately predicted in mid-September, 2021.

By Joel Addington
Resident Community News

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