Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

River Needs a Fair Shake on Dredging

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

River Needs a Fair Shake on Dredging

Article excerpt

Byline: Ron Littlepage

Let's start with an old saying: If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck.

Looking at the members of a task force Mayor Alvin Brown named this week to examine the proposed deep dredge of the St. Johns River channel, it sure seems like a stacked deck.

Even though one of the biggest concerns about blasting another seven feet out of the river's bed is the environmental impact, only one of the 13 task force members is an identifiable environmentalist, Jacksonville University marine scientist Quinton White.

Add to that the charge Brown gave to the task force: Build community support for JaxPort's priorities, including the deep dredge; figure out how to pay for the estimated $371 million project cost that the federal government won't fund; and, by the way, discuss the "different viewpoints" on the dredge.

Considering that charge and the fact that most of the task force comes from a business community that has been gung-ho in favoring the dredge, it seems that conclusions have already been concluded except for that pesky problem of finding that $371 million.

But since the task force has yet to quack officially, let's start with the premise it will do the right thing and do a thorough examination of all aspects of the proposal.

A good place to begin would be the question of the environmental impact.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers assured members of the City Council during an informational meeting on the project Tuesday that the environmental impact of deepening the channel from the current 40 feet to 47 feet would be minimal.

White told the council members he had doubts about that, citing what he called the "use and abuse" of the river for decades.

Instead of taking the corps' promise of no harm, it would be prudent to consider what has come with 100 years of dredging the river channel. …

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