Corps signs off on upgrade to shipping channel

Port Authority missing out on jobs, not waiting on federal funds

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on a navigational hazard at Mile Point, near the mouth of the St. Johns River, has received approval, a critical step toward congressional authorization of funding improvements.

The confluence of the St. Johns River with the Intracoastal Waterway known as Mile Point creates difficult crosscurrents on the ebb tide. Large ships only have two four-hour windows to get in and out of Mile Point because of the currents.

"Everyone in Jacksonville who cares about the economic vitality of this region will mark this important day," said Paul Anderson, CEO of the Jacksonville Port Authority "The Army Corps' approval of the Mile Point project moves us considerably closer to ensuring we maintain the valuable port business that we have today and build on that by leaps and bounds for the future."

The corps' recommended plan combines relocation/reconfiguration of the existing training wall, restoration of Great Marsh Island, and the creation of a flow improvement channel in Chicopit Bay at an estimated cost of $36.5 million, which is to be 65 percent funded by the federal government and 35 percent by local money.

"This is a tremendous milestone for this project," said Jerry Scarborough, chief of the corps' Water Resources Branch. "This significant step allows us to officially submit the report to Congress for authorization."

The Jacksonville Port Authority says that for every ship that makes its way through Mile Point on the St. Johns River, there are others that pass the River City by because of the restrictive stretch of river.

The port is the second-largest employer in Jacksonville, and it doesn't want to lose jobs. Officials say JaxPort is already missing out on getting billion-dollar contracts because it can't get the river dredged.

"We owe Congresswoman Brown, Congressman Mica, Congressman Crenshaw, Congressman Stearns, and Senator Nelson our gratitude for their leadership on this critical achievement," Anderson said. "We are focused on working with the Corps to expedite this minor, but significant project to maximize the growth of jobs critical to our continued national economic recovery."

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