JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – JEA and JAXPORT are looking to raise the height of power lines over a portion the St. Johns River so that bigger ships can travel safely through the port.
The lines are located east of the Blount Island Marine Terminal. A 2020 study found raising their height would cost $30 million — a price tag JEA expects to rise.
During a Tuesday board meeting, JEA leaders said they’re committed to raising the lines that cross the river at the port. But the final price tag along with who will foot the bill are up in the air. The lines carry electricity to about half of JEA’s customers.
Chief Operating Officer Raynetta Marshall said the utility is updating a 2020 study to determine the cost the move the power lines higher.
“We are going to continue the discussions that we have been having with the parties and the partners to this endeavor,” Marshall said.
The Army Corps of Engineers is now also putting pressure on JEA to raise these lines, saying the lines need to be at least 20 feet higher to make way for larger ships and threatening to use its authority to move them if they’re not up to standards, because they’d be obstructing ships.
JEA board member John Baker said raising the lines is something that needs to be done.
“Ships are getting bigger and the dredging that’s going on at the port would literally be wasted if the lines were not raised,” Baker said.
He’s referring to the dredging to deepen the Jacksonville Harbor that will allow bigger ships to call on JAXPORT. According to the Jacksonville Port Authority CEO, that project is estimated to cost about $410 million, and a 2014 report found the deepening will create or protect thousands of jobs.
But in addition to making the port deeper, JAXPORT says, those bigger ships also need more space overhead, meaning the power lines will need to be raised.
JEA CEO Jay Stowe says construction is estimated to take about two years, but it’s unclear when the project might begin.
Stowe said the decision on who will pay for the project will come later, but JEA leadership suggested rate payers shouldn’t have to pay for the cost to raise the height of the lines at JAXPORT.
“I think Jay has been very steadfast and very correct in saying JEA’s ratepayers should not be paying for it,” Baker said. “There are others that can, whether it’s the city, whether it’s JPA, whether it’s the federal government...that’s fine, but we’re taking a huge risk by moving these power lines...raising them. Half our people are reliant on those power lines....it’s $30 million, but it’s way more than that in terms of risk and reliability of our system.”