The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved JaxPort’s application for dredging Wednesday by issuing a signed Chief’s Report.
Congress will now consider the proposal, Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown and Florida Congresswoman Corrine Brown announced at a press conference at the port Wednesday.
According to reports, Corrine Brown said the JaxPort project is now part of the Water Resources bill currently being hashed out in a Congressional committee.
“I am absolutely thrilled that JaxPort’s U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Chief’s Report was approved today,” she said in a statement. “As a Conferee on the Water Resources Development Act and huge advocate for JaxPort and the city of Jacksonville, I have been working for over a year to ensure that the dredging project at JaxPort is authorized in WRDA.”
She added that the quest for funding is not over, but is confident the project will move forward in time to welcome larger vessels by 2015.
“The Jacksonville Port and North Florida community that I represent can't afford any more delays,” she continued. “A deeper draft is critical to the continued viability of JaxPort as an economic engine for Northeast Florida.”
Dredging the St. Johns River from 40 feet to 47 feet to accommodate larger container ships was outlined in last year’s JaxPort strategic plan. In the plan, officials said not deepening the channel would cost the port the opportunity to add 13,800 jobs by 2035. The port would also likely lose out on $1 billion in benefits created by increased container volume, the report found.
According to the master plan, "Upon the authorization for the channel dredging project, JaxPort should aggressively pursue the development of long-term concession with maritime entities including ocean carriers, terminal operators and financial institutions that are interested in developing one, or both, terminal assets on Blount Island.”
In a statement, JaxPort Chief Executive Officer Brian Taylor said the chief’s report validates the project by acknowledging its importance.
“Everyone who cares about the future economic vitality of North Florida and the competitiveness of U.S. global trade should mark this as a red letter day,” he said.
The news comes one day after Brown added Mark Middlebrook, executive director of the St. Johns River Alliance, and Lathun Brigman, general manager of Beaver Street Fisheries, to the 15-person Jacksonville Port Task Force. The group has been tasked with focusing on “JaxPort’s strategic priorities for growth and development in the trade and logistics industries, including the channel deepening project, which would allow larger cargo ships to utilize JaxPort,” according to a statement.