Discovery of bird colonies leads to halt of St. Augustine Beach renovation project

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District (USACE Jacksonville) on Wednesday halted the St. Johns County Shore Protection Project for St. Augustine Beach within the reach of St. Augustine Beach through Anastasia State Park.

The decision was made after the discovery of a colony of small birds known as Little Terns. According to a recent news release from St. Johns County, the birds were found in a sizable colony.

USACE Jacksonville consulted with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Anastasia State Park, St. Johns County, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and other state and federal agencies before suspending operations.

The shutdown is intended to circumvent potential negative impacts on nesting shorebirds, nests and chicks.

Little terns, American oystercatchers, and Wilson’s plovers begin nesting in late April, with late nesting occurring in July. Chicks fledge from the site in early August (developing wings large enough to fly).

The county’s news release noted that USACE Jacksonville is working with the contractor to reschedule a completion timeline. Work started in March. The revised schedule will be published this month.

The St. Johns County Shore Protection Project will renew the eroded shoreline between the southern boundaries of Anastasia State Park to a point 4 miles south of the St. Augustine Inlet.

According to USACE Jacksonville, the goal is to mitigate coastal impacts caused by the federal navigation channel at St. Augustine Inlet. This should also reduce storm damage for upland development.

The Pope Road beach access will serve as a staging area and will remain closed until the renovation project resumes.

This article originally appeared on the St. Augustine Record: Bird colony causes delay to St. Augustine Beach coastal protection project