Riverkeeper Files Injunction To Stop First Phase Of St. Johns River Deepening
Update 1:08 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 6: This story has been updated to include comment from JAXPORT.
An injunction filed Monday is seeking to stop the first phase of deepening the St. Johns River until further studies are conducted.
The Riverkeeper argues the project requires more analysis after Hurricane Irma.
The legal motion is in addition to an existing Riverkeeper lawsuit against the JAXPORT dredging project already making its way through the courts.
Part of the reason St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman wants a judge to put the kibosh on the port’s plan to dredge the river is that the historic river surge from Hurricane Irma requires more diligent analysis.
National Weather Service officials said the flooding broke records previously set more than 170 years ago.
“The Army Corps itself, on Friday, sent out a notice that they’re going to reopen the study to look at the flooding impacts because sadly the Army Corps did not do a flooding analysis and they’ve told this community there will be no negative impacts from flooding, but their facts don’t add up,” Rinaman said.
The Army Corps of Engineers is in charge of both the environmental impact study and logistical plan for dredging a portion of the river from 40 to 47 feet. Rinaman said the Corps found the deepening could increase possible storm surge by a foot — during Irma, the river rose more than five feet in certain areas around the urban core.
Rinaman wants the project halted until the new study is completed. She said dredging allows for more ocean water-intrusion, thus leaving low-lying areas close to the riverbanks at higher risk for flooding.
Rinaman also said she’s also concerned about recent changes to the dredging plan.
“New information’s come to light that hasn’t been assessed, including JAXPORT’s plan to dredge 11 miles, as opposed to the 13 miles,” she said.
Rinaman argues allowing to the port to continue the project while a final ruling on the original lawsuit is still pending, unfairly disadvantages dredging opponents. A judge isn’t expected to rule on the original lawsuit before the summer.
In an emailed statement, JAXPORT spokeswoman Nancy Rubin refutes Rinaman's claims that more study should have been done on the project. She also reiterates the port's view that the project is an economically necessary one.
"The deepening project represents Jacksonville's single largest opportunity to grow the port, add good jobs and better our community," she wrote. "After a decade of study, independent review, public input and full regulatory approval, the time has come to start this project and bring new jobs and increased opportunity to the people of Jacksonville."