Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

River Dredging Project Is Even More Complicated

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

River Dredging Project Is Even More Complicated

Article excerpt

Byline: Ron Littlepage

A stumbling block has emerged in the push to deepen the St. Johns River shipping channel in addition to the environmental harm the dredging would cause.

JaxPort and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials talked around the edges of the latest problem during a meeting of the port task force last week.

It begins with what was once touted as a lock: getting the federal money needed to begin the $700 million project.

That money hasn't materialized, and it's logical to assume that's because the feds don't believe the ultra-expensive deep dredge meets the cost/benefit ratio needed to justify it.

And it's worth noting that's with the channel depth going from 40 feet to 45 feet, which the Corps has recommended, not the 47 feet JaxPort favors. JaxPort would be responsible for paying the entire cost of dredging the extra two feet.

To improve the cost/benefit ratio would require reducing the cost. One option briefly mentioned at the task force meeting Thursday would be to shorten the length of the 13-mile dredge.

Obviously, the dredge, if it's done, has to include where the channel enters the river from the Atlantic. Any shortening of the project would have to come at the western end.

A logical stopping point would be at Blount Island, which would reduce the length of the dredge by about two miles.

But the Trapac terminal, which is a key to increasing the Asian trade at JaxPort, is on the other side of the Dames Point bridge, and capturing more Asian trade is a chief justification for the economic benefit that supposedly would come with the dredge.

Since Trapac insists it must have a 47-foot depth to continue operations, that likely would mean moving its terminal to Blount Island, which would mean shifting other tenants already operating there. That, of course, would add more cost to the project. …

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