The Army Corps of Engineers on Tuesday awarded a contract for the second phase of a dredging project to deepen the St. Johns River.
The contract of almost $210 million is about half-funded, with work on the 5-mile stretch of river expected to begin in December.
Project manager Jason Harrah said currently ships must navigate to JAXPORT with lighter loads, causing them to make many more trips than they could with a deeper river.
“As the population increases, the need for more goods and services for those people increase. People need more Apple products, or they need new computers or whatever is it that’s shipped overseas. So as more and more goods become available and are needed, the ships needs to be bigger, and if the ships need to be bigger, the water needs to be deeper, so it’s kind of a domino effect,” said Harrah.
Phase 1 of the dredging, closest to the Atlantic Ocean, is ongoing while engineers prepare for Phase Two, which is farther inland. Four phases are planned overall.
Meanwhile, the Corps is fighting a lawsuit and attempts by the St. Johns Riverkeeper to block the work from continuing.
The Riverkeeper alleges inadequate proposed environmental offsets for the deepening, and an incomplete and flawed environmental analysis.
However, in January a federal judge rejected attempts by the Riverkeeper to temporarily halt the project. But U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard left the door open for the Riverkeeper to challenge the Corps’ flood models when more information is available.