Jacksonville, FL — The City of Jacksonville is aiming to spend $3 million to replace a section of the Northbank bulkhead in the next fiscal year, saying there have been many problems.
The funding wasn’t initially included in the proposed Capital Improvement Program put forward by Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry as part of the budget approval process, but Councilwoman Lori Boyer says the need changed when they got an updated assessment report on the state of the bulkheads.
“Post-Irma, the bulkhead failures are growing and becoming more problematic, and we really need to start with the replacement of some of the Northbank bulkhead sections,” Boyer says.
A bulkhead is a retaining wall or seawall, and specifically in the areas of concern, it’s the wall bordering the Northbank land along the St. Johns River. During a recent budget hearing, Boyer said there have been “a bunch” of bulkhead problems, and- after receiving the failure report- the Administration agrees that funding needs to be moved in to this year.
In the original CIP for the next fiscal year, there was no money set aside for Northbank bulkhead repair, but the funding started in FY 19-20 allocated several million dollars each of the following several years. Not wanting to increase the debt load on the CIP for the next fiscal year, the proposal put forward by Boyer, in cooperation with the Administration, takes $3 million of the $4 million that was proposed for JAX ASH Site Pollution Remediation. To offset that, Boyer proposed $3 million of the $4 million in bulkhead repair funding for FY 20-21 be moved to JAX ASH Site Pollution Remediation for FY 20-21.
“It gives us the ability to start the work on the Northbank bulkhead a year earlier, and we really need to do that,” Boyer says.
The first phase of the work will be behind the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts, between Hogan and Pearl. One segment on either side of that has also been identified for action- the block behind the Landing and the block behind CSX.
“We are piece-mealing it, but that’s not to say the Landing bulkhead will stay deteriorated forever, nor the section in front of CSX,” says Curry’s Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa, who was asked about the segmented approach.
The proposal keeps the CIP “budget neutral” overall, and the Administration and Public Works Department have assured the Council that there is still enough funding going toward JAX ASH, even with this reduction in the upcoming fiscal year.
“It’s a good move,” says Mousa.
Mousa says JAX ASH deals with a Consent Decree between the City and the EPA for the cleanup of ash City-wide. He says this is a remnant of when the City used to burn solid waste and allow people and construction sites to use that ash as fill. That was done before regulations, and once it was learned the ash has lead and can be harmful to very young children, the City was required to either place two feet of clean fill over the ash sites or remove the old ash outright and put it in a landfill.
Because the sites are scattered across the County, the exact total cost for remediation was not made clear at the hearing, but Mousa says there has been a lot of money put in over the years. Even with the proposed funding shift, there is still $13 million going toward that effort through various other funding lines in FY 18-19. Public Works says, overall, then City has about $24 million left to be done after that. Then, they will continue to do testing and monitoring long term.
WOKV requested a copy of the bulkhead failure report, but the City says it is exempt from public records requests, because it depicts structural elements of bulkheads owned by the City.
The proposal has been approved by the Finance Committee. It is now pending approval by the full City Council, as part of the overall City budget and CIP approval later this month.