Area congressmen want stimulus money for dredging Jacksonville harbor

• BY DAVID BAUERLEIN

• STORY UPDATED AT 6:25 AM ON THURSDAY, MAR. 12, 2009

Northeast Florida congressmen are calling on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to pump $14.7 million from the federal stimulus package into deepening the harbor of Jacksonville’s port.

The stimulus package’s funding for construction is geared toward projects that are shovel-ready. JaxPort already has a dredging project under way with hopes of finishing it by the end of the year.

The $14.7 million would complete dredging in a 5.3-mile stretch of the St. Johns River, ending at the Talleyrand area. The work will drop the channel to 40 feet, matching the depth that exists for the first 14.7 miles of channel from the St. Johns River’s mouth at the ocean.

Jacksonville will be competing with other ports for stimulus funding, so the outcome would show how Jacksonville stacks up against others in the perennial quest for federal dredging dollars.

U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, and Ander Crenshaw, R-Jacksonville, have met with Army Corps officials to make the case for the Jacksonville channel deepening. They also jointly wrote a letter to the Corps this week.

“This project should be the marquis project for any stimulus funding,” Crenshaw said.

U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Ocala, also sent a letter this week to the Corps in support of tapping the stimulus package for the deepening. The port is not in Stearns’ congressional district, but the port’s economic impact extends throughout the region, said spokesman Paul Flusche.

“He’s long supported dredging because it’s good for the local economy,” Flusche said.

JaxPort estimates the total cost of deepening the five-mile stretch will be around $31 million. JaxPort and the federal government would split the cost.

An omnibus spending bill passed Tuesday by the House contains about $3.3 million for the ship channel deepening. Any funding from the stimulus package, which President Barack Obama signed into law Feb. 17, would be on top of the omnibus bill’s appropriation.

The Army Corps of Engineers expects to announce in mid-March what projects have received funding from the stimulus package.

 

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