The Waterways Commission meeting is tomorrow (Wed, Jan 9) at 9:30am at Council Chambers. Here are my comments based on yesterday's meeting and the proposals discussed. If you have comments, please keep in mind that the decisionmakers probably won't see your responses in metrojacksonville.com before tomorrow morning. Jim Love, John Crescimbeni and Lori Boyer are the Council Members on the Commission.
To: Members of the Jacksonville Waterways Commission
From: Tom Ingram
cc: Tera Meeks, Jodi McDaniel, Kelly Boree
Date: January 8, 2013
Re: FIND Subcommittee Meeting on January 7, Recommendations
Members of the FIND Subcommittee of the Jacksonville Waterways Commission met yesterday to evaluate the Administrationís proposed list of projects for funding using the Florida Inland Navigation Districtís matching grant program. According to staff, there is approximately $1.1 Million available at a 50/50 match for projects not involving land acquisition (so up to $2.2 Million total available for such programs assuming that the City funded the maximum amount). If you have already read the minutes that John Jackson prepared and are short on time, please see my comments beginning on page 2. For those of you who have not seen the minutes, here is how the subcommittee voted on the project list:
Location On Motion to Approve Project Summary (my summary not Admin.)
Exchange Island 4-0 Design and Permit small boat dock and shoreline area, hiking trail, pavilions with tables and grills
Sisters Creek ICW Dock Redesign 4-0 Design and Permit (incl. survey) for relocating pilings and docks on ICW side
Ortega River Channel Markers 4-0 Install (construct) channel markers on the Ortega River to limit permanent anchoring of boats in navigable channel
County Dock Road Park and Boat Ramp 3-1 Design and Permit removal of rip rap and old boat ramp; pour new launch area for hand-launch boats; remove old pilings; remove parking obstructions
Northbank Riverwalk Bridge (at Geffen Park) 0-4 Design and permit replacement of wooden pedestrian bridge on Northbank Riverwalk
Geffen Park Kayak Launch 2-2 Design and permit kayak launch area
Northshore Park Kayak Launch 3-1 Design and permit kayak launch area
Lighting at 4 Boat Ramps 4-0 Install lighting at 4 boat ramps
Reed Island 0-4 Design and permit boat dock at Reed Island, a peninsula that lacks legal access by land located across from Blount Island
Harborview Dredging 2-2 Design and permit dredging between boat ramp and Ribault River channel
Blue Cypress Boardwalk Extension 4-0 Design extension of Blue Cypress Boardwalk from existing terminus to Arlington Lions Club boat ramp
San Marco Lake Kayak Launch 0-4 Design and permit kayak access and parking plan on Lake Marco.
Dock at Charles Reese Memorial Park (Ribault River) 2-2 Design and permit public dock
Half Moon Island Land Acquisition 2-2 Acquire land having an existing boat ramp at (with a 25% FIND match) on Half Moon Island (note that the City currently owns over 200 acres of Half Moon Island)
Floating Dock at Shipyards 0-4 Install floating dock near pier at the Shipyards, suggested by John Nooney at the meeting
Boating Master Plan 4-0 Seek one-time grant from FIND to revise a boating master plan for Duval County
In addition to these, I suggested three projects: (1) modify the existing permits and agreement with Fidelity to allow for week-long use of the $400,000 floating dock beneath the Fuller Warren Bridge, currently usable only during the Riverside Arts Market; (2) Add a boat ramp or kayak launch (whichever is most expedient and feasible in near term) to the over 16 acres of property that the City purchased adjacent to the Nassau River on Half Moon Island for a park in 1999, and (3) Design and permit a pier and floating dock at Stockton Park in Ortega, along the lines of that which exists at County Dock Road in Mandarin but with a platform for launching kayaks, standup paddleboards and windsurfers. The consensus of the committee and staff, and I agree, is not to add these to the FIND grant process but to evaluate them further in the coming year.
Fund the Bridge Replacement on Northbank Riverwalk. The Northbank Riverwalk extension, between the Acosta and Fuller Warren Bridges, needs to remain a continuous walkway. Part of this walkway is bridge that was designed as a temporary structure to get this stretch of riverwalk opened before the Super Bowl. The Administration believes that this bridge needs to be replaced, and has proposed using matching FIND funds to help pay for it. If the Riverwalk canít be walked from one end to the other, this affects far more constituents than any of the other projects being discussed. Please provide necessary funds to repair this bridge or reroute the riverwalk so that no bridge is necessary.
Fund the Geffen Kayak Launch Design. This is the best site for kayak launching that exists downtown. Kayaks launch in currents all the time, in places like the Duval Countyís own Intracoastal Waterway and the creeks throughout the Timucuan Preserve in Duval and Nassau Counties. Less-experienced kayakers may find other access points more suitable, like County Dock Road or Stinson Park, but that is not reason to exclude all kayak access in this stretch of the river.
Design and Permitting Cost Estimates. In general, the subcommittee expressed concern that the estimated maximum design and permitting costs were excessively high. The staff explained that these are estimates and said that it planned to have additional information available at the full Waterways Commission meeting. I know that the Commission could spend the entire meeting tomorrow and then some discussing whether the currently estimated maximum design and permitting costs are too high. I think this is a serious issue, but I would hope that concerns over the Administrationís ability to accurately estimate design and permitting costs does not cause water access projects to be killed entirely. Assuming this is a concern, please let the projects move forward to begin the grant process, and work with the Administration to refine the estimated maximum costs of these projects.
Do Not Proceed with Boating Master Plan. The Assistant Executive Director of FIND explained at the last Waterways Commission meeting that if you do seek funding for a master plan, they would want subsequent funding applications to be consistent with it. With that caveat, the plan will need to be extremely broad to keep the Administration and Councilís options open, and will effectively render the plan meaningless. We will also use a lot of time and effort to discuss, debate and refine an abstract plan that does not actually result in increased public access to our waterways. The process will invite conflict between various user groups who may perceive this to be a zero-sum game. Going beyond much more than generalities requires a finer level of assessment about the potential sites and available funding -- information that varies on a year to year basis. Situations change too fast for a detailed master plan to be worthwhile for much more than two or three years. For example, standup paddleboarding barely existed five years ago, and recent bans on keeping bottom fish caught offshore together with high fuel prices are affecting where and how people fish. Let us focus our efforts on actually maintaining and improving water access and not generalized plans as to how we might go about it in the future.
Support the other recommendations of the Subcommittee.
Thank you for your consideration.