A St. Augustine High School
project to build a reef offshore may lead to another one closer in,
but to do it, funding must be available.
Phil Stewman, an SAHS science instructor and founder of the
school’s Sea Explorer program, says concrete reef balls have the
capability of helping rebuild beaches.
He wants a site about 1,000 feet offshore that is 200 yards long
so that data can be collected on the process.
‘‘A wave, once it hits the ball, will break over the ball and
that will allow the water to carry the sand on the beach,’’ he said.
‘‘The idea is to work with nature and not against it.
‘‘The sky is the limit,’’ he said.
A small test area in the Dominican Republic has added about 80
feet to a section of beach, Stewman said.
County Commissioner Marc Jacalone is working with Stewman on the
proposed renourishment project. Jacalone said a location about 1,200
feet off a section of Vilano Beach is ideal for the test. This is in
the area where the county has restricted beach driving access
because of erosion.
‘‘We have had many discussions on the beach renourishment problem
we have here,’’ Jacalone said. ‘‘There is a great possibility these
balls placed down on the coastline can aid in the restoration. ...
Hopefully we can support it.’’
He said the county may use some of its reef enhancement funds for
such a project.
County Administrator Ben Adams was directed by the commission to
work with Stewman to come up with a cost analysis for a proposed
test area. Adams said Stewman’s timing is good because it is within
the time frame for the development of the 2001 fiscal year budget.
That budget year begins Oct. 1.
Stewman had no cost estimate, but Adams said the budget office
will work with Stewman on the proposal.
‘‘We certainly need the help because we are self-funded,’’ he
said. The reef ball project under way has received funding from
private donations including the Kirbo Foundation of Atlanta, area
businesses and personal contributions.
Meanwhile, the Sea Explorer’s artificial reef construction
project will begin on June 3 when the reef balls are moved from a
city lot on Anastasia Island to the ocean.
They will be carried by shrimp boats 13 miles offshore. The
students will then go into the water and release the balls on the
sea floor, Stewman said.
Stewman said the concrete balls have a lifespan of about 500
years on land but in the ocean, they will last indefinitely.
David Austin, one of the Sea Explorers, told the commission that
the students are proud of this accomplishment.
‘‘It is really an awesome thing to be involved in something that
is going to be out there forever,’’ he said. ‘‘Something you can
dive on. To see something you have built and then to come back later
and dive on it.’’