First Coast Connect: Riverkeeper Slams JAXPORT Over Dredge Plans

Jun 22, 2017

St. Johns Riverkeeper says JAXPORT isn't bring open enough regarding its dredging plans.
Credit JAXPORT

St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman says JAXPORT is trying to pull an end-around regarding its new proposal to dredge the river channel.

She said there has not been enough public scrutiny of the plan.

Earlier this month JAXPORT announced a revised plan that would dredge 11 miles of the river instead of 13 to 47 feet from it’s current 40. Port officials said it would cut the cost of the project from $700 million to $484 million.

Appearing on Thursday’s First Coast Connect, Rinaman said the plan is not being vetted the way an expensive proposal from any other city’s independent agencies would receive.

“The port recently announced this new plan to begin the deep dredge this year without any public comment, without any transparent dialogue and without the consent of city council,” she said. “This plan not only damages the St. Johns River, it obligates future councils and obligates future taxpayers more than $150 million.”                  

Rinaman said the $484 million projected cost is misleading because it only accounts for cost of the dredging and doesn’t include the nearly billion dollar cost estimate for infrastructure changes the port would need to accommodate the larger ships.      

JAXPORT spokesperson Nancy Rubin appeared on First Coast Connect last week.

She said it isn’t necessary to include infrastructure improvements to the cost of the dredging because most of those improvements would have happened anyway.

“We’ve had incredible support from the state to create a roadway system that is premier and allows the cargo to move in and out quickly,” she said. “A lot of the steps to make this work, to reap the benefits of this project have already been done.”

Rubin said JAXPORT has got nothing but strong support the city, the state and Jacksonville’s congressional delegation to make the dredging plans a reality.  

Kevin Meerschaert can be reached at kmeerschaert@wjct.org, 904-358-6334 or on Twitter at @KMeerschaertJax