A proposed inland artificial reef in the St. Johns River near San Marco was on the Jacksonville Waterways Commission Artificial Reef Subcommittee’s agenda Wednesday at City Hall.
The reef is proposed to be constructed in 16 feet of water west of Jim Rink Park and south of the Fuller Warren Bridge.
City Planner Jody McDaniel said the process of obtaining permits to construct the artificial reef is proceeding with state and federal agencies.
She said the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have requested additional information.
“They have 10 concerns,” including mapping the proposed site, details on how the reef will be deployed and monitoring the effect the underwater structure may have on endangered species, McDaniel said. She described the reef in the river as a pilot program.
McDaniel said the required permits could be issued as soon as January.
The project involves placing recycled concrete on the river bottom to attract fish and other marine life to improve recreational fishing. The cost of the project, estimated at $50,000, involves obtaining concrete debris, transporting it to the site and submerging it in the river at the site.
One proposal is to purchase the concrete from a recycler in St. Augustine, transport it by truck and then by barge to the project site.
Another proposal is to purchase the concrete material from a recycling company in Talleyrand, which would reduce the transportation cost.
McDaniel said only $5,000 in funding for the materials has been obtained from the Coastal Conservation Association.
The association is a statewide, nonprofit marine conservation organization that advocates protecting the state’s marine resources and access for recreational fishing.
City Council created the commission in 1984.
Council member Lori Boyer, whose district includes San Marco, suggested to the subcommittee that the concrete material for the reef project could be obtained from FDOT’s Overland Bridge Project, which is scheduled to begin by January.
The $224 million improvement project is a series of new overpasses on Interstate 95, starting at the south end of the Fuller Warren Bridge and extending south to near Emerson Street. The entire 2.3-mile span of expressway will be replaced.
Boyer said the demolition will generate a large amount of debris and that could be a source of recycled concrete for the nearby reef project.
“The state could donate the rubble to the City. The contractor needs to get rid of it. We could be doing them a favor,” she said.
Boyer also discussed another issue in her district, a riverfront park area north of the intersection of Landon Avenue and River Road that has become popular with anglers.
She said the number of people fishing in the park, which has no restrooms or dedicated parking area, has become an issue for adjacent property owners.
“We have a list of problems,” Boyer said.
She cited garbage cans regularly overflowing, despite the availability of seven receptacles in the one-block area; and individuals using the park taking up all of the available on-street parking, making it difficult for homeowners in the area to use the spaces. Boyer said there are no restroom facilities, which has led to people using the park trespassing on private property and causing sanitation issues.
People fishing and harvesting shrimp at night, when the park is closed, also is an issue, she said.
City Parks & Recreation Director Kelley Boree said there is no way to provide parking or restrooms for the park and that the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is involved, attempting to enforce the park rules.
“The issue from my standpoint is the situation has gotten worse. I hate the idea of saying ‘no fishing’ as a solution, but I don’t have any answers,” said Boyer.
A $50,000 project that’s $45,000 short of being funded could be a beneficiary of the Florida Department of Transportation’s Overland Bridge Project.