Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown’s port task force voted this week in support of deepening the Jacksonville Harbor and increasing offsets for environmental harm that may result. What they did not decide was how to pay for the projects.
The task force voted seven-to-one that dredging the port — from 40 feet to 47 feet to accommodate Asian “megaships” — makes good sense for the city.
They estimate $380 million must come from state and local governments but stopped short of outlining a funding plan.
Martin “Hap” Stein, co-chairman of the task force said, “This is a generational opportunity to make the port a meaningful port and to take advantage of the significant growth in the containerized cargo.”
The dissenting vote came from Jacksonville University Marine Science Research Director Quinton White. He says the Army Corps of Engineers and Jacksonville Port Authority have underestimated the project’s environmental harm and cost while overestimating its benefits.
White said, “The big part now is how do you pay for it. It’s a crazy ballgame right now. Watch the bouncing numbers.”
The task force agreed unanimously, though, $50 million is a good amount to spend on mitigation projects. The projects will likely include breaching the Rodman Dam to restore the Oklawaha River. The Jacksonville City Council will have the final say on all of these issues.