Pier construction uncovers Civil War-era shipwreck in Hernando Co.

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Well-known to Hernando County residents, the Bayport Pier is a popular spot to catch fish. But the pier is broken and it has been since Hurricane Hermine blew through Florida in 2016.

"As a native of Hernando County, I fished on this pier when I was 7 years old," said County Commissioner Wayne Dukes. "It's a great place for Hernando County." 

It's also one of great historical significance.  Below the water's surface is a ship used by the Confederate Army during the Civil War. 

"Florida here was like a pioneering, backwater area so this is kind of very significant," said David Letasi, with the Historic Hernando Preservation Society. "We'd want to preserve it." 

Letasi says there was a naval engagement with blockade runners in 1863. It was one of the very few in Florida. 

In order to preserve the ship near the pier at Bayport, and a handful of other targets, underwater assessments must be completed before the old pier can be torn out and a new one installed. 

"The shipwrecks out here haven't really been thoroughly surveyed to the point of whether we know which ship is which ship related to this engagement," explained Letasi. "That has a lot of historical content."

Dukes says the underwater survey will cost the county up to $75,000. Rebuilding the pier will cost about $800,000, with FEMA covering 75 percent of it.

"History is a big deal when you have this kind of history here with the Civil War," said Dukes.  

That's why everything is being done to protect it. From the surface, you can't see the ship, just the markers to show its placement. It will stay there because under water is where the ship is best preserved. 

The underwater assessment will begin in two to three weeks. A brand new Bayport Pier will be constructed and should re-open by next spring.