Mayor’s budget committee to consider $75 million for St. Johns River dredging

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Posted June 23, 2020

JaxPort says the loan and grant will help complete the project two years early.

by:

Mike Mendenhall

Staff Writer

The Mayor’s Budget Review Committee will vote June 22 to authorize borrowing $75 million to fund a bridge loan and grant to the Jacksonville Port Authority for dredging the St. Johns River, according to the meeting agenda and a JaxPort spokesperson.

If cleared by the budget review committee, the loan and grant would be sent to City Council for final approval.

The money will be used toward the final contract for the $484 million, 11-mile portion of the Jacksonville harbor deepening project through the Blount Island Marine Terminal, said JaxPort Public Information Officer Chelsea Kavanagh in emails June 19 and 20.

“The funds are needed to cover the local share of the project and will keep (the) harbor deepening on track to be completed two years ahead of its original schedule,” Kavanagh said. “These funds are in addition to significant funding already awarded to the project by the federal government ($193 million), the state of Florida ($70 Million) and JAXPORT and port tenant SSA ($68 million).”

JaxPort’s total plan will deepen the 13-mile shipping channel from 40 to 47 feet from the Atlantic Ocean to the Blount Island terminal. The project is divided into four segments.

The new depth accommodates the large post-Panamax ships from Asia passing through the enlarged Panama Canal

According to the port official, $35 million of the $75 million will be a grant to cover a portion of the local share of the dredging project. The remaining $40 million is a bridge loan that will be repaid from funding awarded to JaxPort in the Florida Department of Transportation’s 2021 5-year work plan.

Kavanagh said FDOT will reimburse JaxPort once construction on the 11-mile segment begins. The money will be forwarded to the city to repay the loan with interest in about two years.

“The federal government requires the local sponsor of the project (JAXPORT) to submit its share of funds to the US Army Corps of Engineers before the (it) awards the contract,” Kavanagh said.

JaxPort expects the contract to be awarded in mid- to late August.

The $40 million bridge loan would be in addition to the city’s total $70 million contribution to the dredging. The city’s portion of the project includes the $35 million grant; $25 million that JaxPort will borrow on its credit line that the city will reimburse in fiscal year 2021; and $10 million, if needed based on project costs, in 2021.

The project began in February 2018 and is anticipated to be completed in 2023, two years ahead of schedule, based on continued funding.

In February, JaxPort announced the federal government allocated $93 million for the next phase of the deepening project.

Of the money, $57.5 million is included in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers work plan and is a “done deal,” Kavanagh said Feb. 10.

The remaining $35.5 million was in President Donald Trump’s $4.8 trillion fiscal 2021 spending plan released Feb. 10. That money must be approved by Congress.

In November, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the port a $20 million grant to enable the facility to accommodate more containers in a larger area.

JaxPort says the federal government, state of Florida, the port and port tenant SSA Jacksonville have contributed or pledged a combined total of more than $394 million toward the $484 million deepening project.

Source: jaxdailyrecord