Officials from JaxPort and the city met Wednesday to talk about possible local funding to deepen the port for larger ships.
Councilman Bill Gulliford met with Council President Lori Boyer and JaxPort’s interim CEO Eric Green to discuss dredging 13 miles of the St. Johns River, but Gulliford said there’s no definite federal or state funding source.
“What if somebody in some office up there starts beating a drum and says ‘wait a minute. Why are we funding the deepening of this port when you’ve already got X number on the East coast?’ “ he said. “You don’t know what the scenario could be that would torpedo that funding. You can’t count on it as a certainty. It’s not a certainty.”
Gulliford said if the city contributes funding, he’d like to know more about the numbers sooner than later. Green said JaxPort will make a presentation to City Council in a couple months about projected costs of the dredging.
St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman, who is against the project, said there’s never been a robust conversation about what projects the city would be giving up to fund dredging.
“We have a lot of unfunded infrastructure issues in the state of Florida, septic tanks that are polluting our river,” she said. “There’s so many projects competing for money.”
Meanwhile, JaxPort maintains the project would bring thousands of jobs to the city.
Gulliford said he’s not convinced if dredging would be good or bad for Jacksonville.
“I’ve got a lot of questions based on the information I’ve seen and I’d like to have those questions answered,” he said. “I want to hear all sides and we really have not heard that in a formal setting.”
He said he expects the discussion to continue during the JaxPort presentation to council.
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Reporter Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride.