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Governments Plan for Development of Land Vulnerable to Rising Sea Level: Duval County, Florida

Excerpts from underlying study by Maurice Postal, Baker County (formerly with Northeast Florida Regional Planning Council)

The St. Johns River runs through the county from the Atlantic all the way to the county's south border. The St. Johns River, the Intracoastal Waterway, the Nassau River, Dunns Creek, the Broward River, the Trout River, the Ribault River, the Arlington River, Pottsburg Creek, the Ortega River, and Julington Creek combine to create approximately 210 linear miles of coastline influenced by tides. Add this to the 20 miles of beach along the Atlantic coast and Duval County has approximately 230 linear miles of coastline affected by tidal influence.

Atlantic Coast . The Atlantic Coastline land north of the St. Johns River inlet area is all part of the Little Talbot Island State Park. This entire area is assigned the scenario of protection likely because of its moderate use by visitor.

The majority of the areas of land south of the St Johns River inlet to St. Johns County are improved beachfront and designated as residential, commercial, and industrial, and hence almost certain the be protected. This stretch of coastline comprises the City of Atlantic Beach, the City of Neptune Beach, and the City of Jacksonville Beach. Although there are park/recreation parcels within this area that would be unlikely to be protected by themselves, these parcels are completely surrounded by commercial and residential parcels. Local planners indicated that protecting those developed areas would protect the undeveloped areas by default and hence our map shows these parks/recreation parcels as almost certain to be protected as well.

Intracoastal Waterway. From the St. Johns River north to the Nassau River, the shorelines of the northern Intracoastal Waterway and Nassau Sound consist mostly of wetlands conservation and agricultural designations with some minor areas of residential. It is assumed that the agricultural and conservation areas will not be protected and will be left alone for wetlands migration. The residential designation of this area is protection almost certain, because many of the properties are high end. The conservation designations in this area are deemed as no protection and would be left to wetlands migration under current policies. The exceptions to this are the areas of conservation bordering the Little Talbot Island State Park. These areas may be given a future designation of protection almost certain because they border State Road A1A. If these areas are allowed to flood then SR A1A will also be flooded. It may be more feasible as well as cost-effective to fortify the land as opposed to fortifying SR A1A.

From the St. Johns River south to St. Johns County), the Intracoastal shoreline is bordered mostly by wetlands scattered with forested uplands (conservation), high-end residential, and agriculture. The areas of conservation and agriculture are designated as no protection because the majority of land along the Intracoastal is unimproved and these are the only areas for the wetlands to migrate. Our general approach would have been to designate these lands as protection unlikely because some of it may be developed in the future, but the local planners suggested that they should be designated as land for wetlands migration.

St. Johns River Inlet Area to Sisters Creek. The St. Johns River inlet is bordered to the north by Huguenot State Park. This area is labeled protection likely because it is mainly a sandbar created by the stone embankment erected to protect the channel from washout. There is an ongoing debate concerning what to do with the northern jetties because of the concentration of sand that is choking off the channel that feeds the Ft George Inlet. This area of the moderate-use park is labeled protection likely but may be changed in the future depending on the outcome of current studies.

The south side of the St. Johns River inlet is property owned by the Mayport US Naval Base and is labeled as protection almost certain because of the intense level of development. West of the Naval Station is the Mayport Fishing Village. This area is almost all commercial and is designated as protection almost certain. The land to the east of Sisters Creek, Fort George Island, is designated as conservation and agricultural. Under our general approach, this area would be viewed as protection unlikely. Local planners view protection as reasonably likely, however, because of the existence of a public golf course, Kingsley Plantation (Timucuan Preserve), and a few residential parcels. The area of land south of Sisters Creek is known as the Timucuan Preserve and is given the scenario of protection unlikely because it will most likely be left alone for wetlands migration, but there is no specific policy that would guarantee such a result.

St. Johns River (from Sisters Creek to the Trout River). The large area of wetlands fed by water flowing from Sisters Creek, Cedar Point Creek, and Clapboard Creek is bordered to the north by improved areas designated as residential as well as areas designated as agriculture. These agriculture lands are assigned protection unlikely and the improved lands are assigned protection almost certain. Further west of the Timucuan Preserve is the Mill Cove area. Uplands in this area are designated as residential, conservation, and parks/recreation. All of these areas that are not wetlands are almost certain to be protected. The study area along the north side of the St. Johns River west of Clapboard Creek consists primarily of improved properties with commercial and residential designations and protection is almost certain. The study area along south side of the St. Johns River and west of the Timucuan Preserve is primarily residential with some smaller areas of conservation and recreation. The residential and recreational areas are assigned protection almost certain and the conservation area is assigned as no protection. Quarantine Island, would be viewed as protection unlikely given the absence of development. But local planners view it as vital to the directional flow of the St. Johns River and suggested that it should be changed to protection almost certain. Blount Island, also located in the St. Johns River, is assigned the scenario of protection almost certain because of its mostly industrial use.

Trout, Ribault, and Broward Rivers and Dunns Creek. The land contiguous to these water bodies is primarily residential with some commercial (boat marinas) and recreation. All of the areas along the Trout River that are designated as residential or commercial are assigned the scenario of protection almost certain. The areas of recreational use are likely to be protected.

St. Johns River (from the Trout River south to the county border). Areas of residential, commercial, industrial, public, recreational, and conservation land uses border the remainder of the St. Johns River. The residential areas, which consist of mostly high-end homes, and commercial, industrial, and public lands, including boat ramps and the Jacksonville Naval Air Station, are almost certain to be protected. The recreational areas are deemed as protection likely. The Exchange Club Island located under the Matthews Bridge would not be protected given lack of development and conservation use, but this may need to be analyzed further if the island exists to divert the flow of water. The areas along the Arlington River and Pottsburg Creek are residential and almost certain to be protected. The Ortega River coastline consists mostly of high-end residential properties, and these lands are also almost certain to be protected. The recreation areas along the Ortega River are likely to be protected. The conservation areas are assigned the scenario of no protection because retreat will be allowed for wetlands migration.

Julington Creek (from the St. Johns River to the end). Julington Creek is bordered by areas of residential, public, and agricultural. The residential homes along the creek are medium to high end. Therefore, these areas are almost certain to be protected. The public lands (boat ramp) are deemed as protection likely. The remaining agricultural lands are assigned the protection unlikely scenario because it is believed that it will not be cost-effective to fortify them, thereby leaving them for wetlands migration.

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Governments Plan for Development of Most Land Vulnerable to Rising Sea (PDF, 7 pp., 1.3 MB) was originally published in Environmental Research Letters , Issue 3, Volume 4 (2009).

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