Resiliency in action: Partnership projects in St. Augustine Beach provide plan for future flooding
April 27, 2023
A resilience project, located off Mizell Road in St. Augustine Beach, was funded by the city of St. Augustine Beach, FEMA and the St. Johns River Water Management District.
St. Augustine Beach is no stranger to flooding. Even before Hurricanes Ian and Nicole ravaged parts of Florida in fall 2022, residents in the area knew the devastation hurricanes, or even just an extreme rainstorm, could bring. Flooding from storm surge and extreme tides threatens lives and property and severely impacts local economies, which depend heavily upon the tourism industry.
Local businesses and residents prepare, and recover, to the best of their ability from these events, but the city recognized a need to improve resiliency efforts and mitigate the impacts associated with projected sea-level rise. The city of St. Augustine Beach partnered with the St. Johns River Water Management District and FEMA to implement a project that helps protect roughly 342 acres of the community. The project consisted of raising the weir height and bank elevations of the city’s Master Stormwater Facility by roughly four feet to block storm surge, while increasing the pumping capacity to maintain drainage ability during extreme tides.
The large stormwater pump station and outfall are located along Mizell Road, and during extreme weather events — including high tides, hurricanes and heavy rains — the city will be able to divert water to a stormwater pond where the sediment will be filtered out and then eventually flow into the Intracoastal Waterway.
Though not yet fully operational at the time, the new weir already proved its worth last fall — during Hurricanes Ian and Nicole — by blocking storm surge from the Matanzas River from entering the city’s drainage system. The new and larger pumps were able to stay ahead of rainfall during these events, minimizing the potential for flooding in the watershed.
“Because of the recent hurricanes, resiliency efforts are getting a lot of attention lately, but communities have been working with the District for years to implement a variety of projects,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Mike Register. “I commend the city of St. Augustine Beach for taking steps to protect their community from extreme weather events and also taking steps to combat sea-level rise.”
A group of city of St. Augustine, St. Augustine Beach and St. Johns County staffs and officials showcased resilience projects during a visit by Florida’s Chief Resilience Officer, Dr. Wes Brooks, in December 2022.
“The city’s partnership with the St. Johns River Water Management District and FEMA has resulted in a major improvement in resiliency and flood protection for the citizens of St. Augustine Beach, as well as parts of unincorporated St. Johns County. The city is tremendously grateful to our partners for their assistance in completing this project to increase the resiliency of our beachside community. The project represents a critical and significant first step in adapting to the challenges associated with sea-level rise,” said St. Augustine Beach City Manager Max Royle.
As an added protection, the project allows the city to lower the water level in the retention pond ahead of a storm event to provide more capacity for the additional rainfall. The city also installed an emergency generator to ensure the pumps can operate during a power loss.
To learn more about the city of St. Augustine Beach resiliency efforts, visit staugbch.com/publicworks.
To learn more about District efforts, visit www.sjrwmd.com/localgovernments/sea-level-rise.