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St. Johns dredging in line for $2.8 million

Congress includes the long-planned project in the spending bill sent to Bush.

Jacksonville Port Authority stands to receive $2.8 million in federal funds to spend on a long-planned dredging project in the St. Johns River.

Congress approved the money Wednesday as part of a $555 billion spending bill sent for President Bush's signature. The U.S. Senate approved the bill Tuesday.

Port Authority Director Rick Ferrin said the money will help pay for a $22 million project to deepen a 5.5-mile section of the river including Talleyrand and the Chaseville Turn. The navigable depth will go from 38 to 41 feet and the turn will be widened, he said.

Planning began in the 1990s, he said. Work likely will begin next year and finish in 2009.

Of the $22 million, Ferrin said Jaxport is responsible for $7 million and the remaining $15 million will be paid by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"We're delighted because this has been a project in the works for the past 15 years," Ferrin said.

Safety is a concern leading to the need to dredge. Ferrin said ships rounding the Chaseville Turn, just west of Dames Point, can create a suction effect pulling at other vessels.

Ferrin said the dredging will enable Talleyrand mainstays like Hamburg Sud to call heavier ships to port.

The project is not expected to affect the scheduled 2008 opening of a terminal for Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd., an expansion projected to double container activity at the port.

The Mitsui terminal will be at Dames Point, outside of the dredging slated for river mile markers 14.7 through 20.2.

Ferrin said the dredging sets the stage for a future project to further deepen the river in an effort to handle larger ship traffic after the Panama Canal expansion is complete.

Work to double capacity of the 100-year-old waterway began in September.


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Revised: February 10, 2010 .

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