Sea wall project design update

On Friday, Nov. 12, the Sea Wall Committee and the design firm PBS&J held a public meeting at the Sudakoff Center to give a project update and hear attendees’ input.

“This is a preliminary meeting so that people don’t feel like [the project] was sprung on them later on,” Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs and Chair of the Sea Wall Committee Julie Morris explained.

No definitive design plans exist yet, but speakers presented early ideas and accomplishments to date. According to PBS&J Project Manager John Ireland, the goals of the project are “either repair or replacement of the existing sea wall and dock, the creation of an intertidal lagoon with the potential to route your existing stormwater discharges through that … [and] to improve pedestrian access to the Bay.”

“Another goal of this project is to improve the intertidal coast and, in general, the intertidal habitat,” New College Senior Architect and Project Manager Jack Whelan added.

The state awarded $2 million to NCF for the project in Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) funds, but additional grants are still being sought. Construction will begin in November 2011 and Whelan said the project could take between four to seven months to complete.

Sea wall and shoreline:

One thing to consider is the sea wall’s historical aspect. PBS&J applied for a $325,000 historical preservation grant from the Florida Department of Historical Resources (DHR). The DHR will be involved with plans for the sea wall if the grant proposal is accepted and, according to Ireland, intends to be involved with the overall project since the construction site is on a national historic registry.

“There will be some caveats — that [construction] will have to not detract from the historical significance of the sea wall,” Ireland stated. “So we couldn’t paint it purple with flowers on it or something like that.” The committee hoped to restore parts of the sea wall, but after investigation, Ireland said they determined “we’re not gonna be salvaging any of it” and it will be entirely replaced.

Bryan Flynn, the coastal engineer for the project, presented ideas for the new sea wall. “One of the big things is getting different structural rigidity,” he said. “Before, it was just the rebar, which when exposed to the elements corrodes and creates the cracks that you saw. They have the epoxy coats to the rebar — the epoxy is a barrier that doesn’t allow saltwater to get in and corrode the rebar and structural rigidity.”

Meeting attendees liked the idea of a set of steps extending from the sea wall into the Bay. “A tier scenario … giving you a transition where someone could make an easy step down on to [one] level and have access to the Bay at that point,” Flynn said. “The other appealing part to this is it does dissipate some of the wave energy we had before.”

Riprap, a rock lining for the coastline, would also dissipate wave energy and protect against shoreline erosion. A sloping wall rather than the vertical wall currently in place would accomplish the same affect with added benefits.

“Right now, the intertidal habitat along the sea wall is like a two and half foot vertical strip of the wall with barnacles and other things like that,” Morris stated. “And that’s because it’s a vertical wall and the tide goes up and down. So, if we have a sloping shoreline, that intertidal area between high tide and low tide becomes acres, becomes a really extensive sloping area that’s sandy and has plants and animals and just is a big gift to the Bay.”

The design must take into account the sea grass near the wall in order to avoid permitting issues. “If they construct a new sea wall that is more than two feet seaward of the current location, then we will have to get a full permit,” Ireland said. “But as long as we do construction within two feet of the existing sea wall or landward it falls under an exemption category.” The permit exemption review process is faster than the process for a full review. The more projects that fall under exemption or no permit required, the soon construction can begin.

Dock:

The dock will also be completely demolished.

“The [new] dock would maintain its same general configuration,” Flynn said. “Right now it is 1,100 square feet over mean high water …  that would have to be restricted to 1,000 square feet over water in order to meet with the maintenance of permit exemption.”

“What we’re proposing to do is make all these enhancements at the existing location of the [sea] wall or further back,” Ireland added. “So we could actually construct a larger dock as long as only 1,000 feet of that dock are over the waterfront.”

Lagoon and stormwater treatment:

“What was originally conceived was an excavation of the uplands to create a true intertidal lagoon — a saltwater estuary basically, that has regular tidal flushing to create habitat and an educational component,” Ireland said. “[It is] an opportunity for students and faculty to come down to the waterfront and observe a created system.”

Currently, New College “essentially [has] what is called direct discharge — there is no treatment system between where the water is collected off the parking lots and the Bay,” Ireland said. The lagoon could serve as a stormwater treatment facility. Runoff water would process through lagoon vegetation before moving on to the Bay.

“The tough part about that is, with a relatively restricted tidal range, the permitting agencies want to see that it could meet certain requirements for [the lagoon] to flush,” Flynn said. “The existing ground level in front of the [sea] wall is already about mid-high range, so in order for us to be able to go in there and get tidal circulation to come into the area  … would take quite a bit of extensive modeling to make sure what we are proposing is going to flush.”

Aside from the lagoon, other options exist for stormwater treatment, such as “inline treatment systems, things that we do to the actual inlets to the parking lots to try to trap pollutants before they get in the piping system,” Ireland explained. “Most of the inlets in your parking lot just run pipes and then go rite out to the Bay,” without treating the water first.

New stormwater treatment features mean “a more extensive application and permitting review process,” Morris said. “We would like to improve the quality of the water that enters the Bay … but we see it as a potential thing that will blow up and make the project really expensive and [have] a longer permit review time and so we’re trying to not cause that to happen.”

Waterfront landscaping

Ideas for landscaping include creating more pedestrian and non-motorized access to the Bay. “For instance, raising an area up slightly so that it’s not in the water during the wet seasons, stabilizing it with a synthetic material … some type of plastic material,” Ireland said. Adding an impervious cover will present more permitting issues, however, as they add to surface runoff.

Ireland said the committee has also discussed “creating landscape enhancements that can be adjusted depending on what’s going on.” For example, having “plants that could be arranged between College Hall and [the] Bay and you could come out with a forklift and put them somewhere else, to put up tents if you need to.”

Ireland mentioned the possibility of a labyrinth and also clearing off plants not native to the Bay. “We don’t intend right now to take out any of the existing trees except for a couple exotics that are at the far northern end of the project,” Ireland said. “We potentially are going to be relocating some of the existing palms but maintaining them on campus.”

Some of the smaller projects, such as replacing broken tiles, may also fall under exemption or no permit required.

Moving ahead, the committee will interview construction managers this week. Also this week, DHR will determine whether or not they will provide the requested grant. If they do, New College will match the grant with part of the PECO money. DHR money would not be available until next summer, part of the reason for the late construction start date. On Nov. 24, PBS&J will send a preliminary analysis and recommendation report to Whelan.

“[The report] will be disseminated to everyone in the committee, it will be discussed with campus administration and then we as the consultants will be given direction on how to proceed forward with the next stage, the schematic design,” Ireland said. The schematic is scheduled to be submitted by Jan. 7, 2011.

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