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Business Leaders, St. Johns Riverkeeper Find Compromise On Port Deepening

Peter Haden

Controversial plans to deepen the Jacksonville harbor could move forward after business leaders, city officials and environmentalists announced a compromise Monday.


Even Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown will admit: this is a case of strange bedfellows.

"It's not everyday that you see the business community and the environmental community sharing the same boat and rowing in the same direction," said Brown.

That boat is rowing south - to tear down the Rodman Dam in Putnam County. The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, City Hall and the Port Authority agreed to find the funding and permission to breach the dam. That would get millions of gallons of freshwater flowing into the St. Johns River every day and restore thousands of acres of wetlands. In return, the St. Johns Riverkeeper organization is agreeing to drop its federal lawsuit to stop the dredging.

But, St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman said, the deal has a time limit.

"The authorization and funding would have to happen during the state legislative session this spring," said Rinaman. "There is a very short window of opportunity for this solution, as well as to legally challenge, which we're currently working on as well."

Jacksonville-based U.S. Representatives, Republican Ander Crenshaw and Democrat Corrine Brown both support the agreement.

The Rodman Dam was built on the Ocklawaha River in 1968 as part of the failed Cross Florida Barge Canal.

St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman visited First Coast Connect this morning to discuss the controversial agreement

Peter Haden is an award-winning investigative reporter and photographer currently working with The Center for Investigative Reporting. His stories are featured in media outlets around the world including NPR, CNN en Español, ECTV Ukraine, USA Today, Qatar Gulf Times, and the Malaysia Star.