Two other Florida ports — Port Everglades and Jacksonville — also want to handle post-Panamax vessels, but projects to deepen their shipping channels are still in the waiting stage.
PortMiami Director Juan Kuryla knows the feeling. “These projects don’t happen overnight. I came to the port in 1998 and we were talking about dredging back then,” he said.
Even though PortMiami officials lobbied for federal dollars for the “deep dredge,” what allowed the Miami project to begin was the infusion of $112million in state money.
Here’s where dredging projects stand at the two ports pushing for deep water:
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▪ Port Everglades: The Broward County port has been trying to get permission to deepen its harbor for the past 18 years. But Port Everglades Director Steven Cernak is optimistic the port’s day will come.
“It’s closer to reality than it’s ever been,” he said.
Broward had hoped to dredge its 42-foot deep channel to 50 feet, but the Army Corps of Engineers determined that a dredge to 47 feet had the best cost-benefit ratio. Port Everglades still wanted to go deeper to make sure fully loaded post-Panamax ships could get into the port easily.
The Corps allowed it to buy down another foot to 48 feet and the Broward County Commission approved the plan, which will result in an extra $9million expenditure for the port. The Corps allows an overdraft allowance of two feet, which means Port Everglades will get its 50-foot depth.
But the port is still awaiting a final report from the chief of the Corps of Engineers — an essential step in moving forward. Cernak expects the report by early next year.
Under the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, Port Everglades will be allowed to proceed with the design and engineering phase of the $370million project with non-federal money once it receives the chief’s report and can seek reimbursement or credit in a future water resources bill.
“If everything aligns as hoped, the design phase will take two years,” Cernak said, meaning dredging could begin by early 2018.
As in the Miami project, environmental mitigation will be required and coral will need to be transplanted, Cernak said.
▪ Jacksonville: Jacksonville Port Authority officials were encouraged last spring when their project to deepen a portion of the St. Johns River from 40 to 47 feet for 13 miles was included in this year’s water resources bill — a hurdle that must be cleared for the project to go ahead and be eligible for nearly $313million in federal funding.
But Northeast Florida environmental groups, including St. Johns Riverkeeper and the Northeast Florida chapter of the Sierra Club, aren’t happy about that. They doubt the claims the $684million project will create tens of thousands of jobs and question the environmental impact study done by the Corps of Engineers.
The Public Trust Environmental Legal Institute of Florida has filed suit seeking the model used to come up with the information that went into the report that projected the big job gains.
“This is not an environmental lawsuit, it is a public records suit,” said Nancy Rubin, spokeswoman for the port. “They want the economic model used by our consultants and that doesn’t belong to us.”
This summer the Corps began the 18-month planning, engineering and design phase of the Jacksonville project. A couple of year ago, JAXPORT officials were hopeful they would have deep water by 2017. Now they say the target is to be big-ship ready around 2020.