During a visit to Jaxport on Monday afternoon, Gov. Rick Scott committed $36 million in state funds to complete the modification of the St. Johns River shipping channel to allow larger ships access to Jacksonville ports.
The Jacksonville Port Authority says the "Mile Point" development project will allow more and larger ships easy access to the docks along the river that could result in an additional 340,000 20-foot cargo containers coming through Jacksonville annually, and generate up to 3,500 additional jobs.
Mile Point is where the St. Johns River and Intracoastal Waterway meet and generate difficult crosscurrents during ebb tides -- the period after a high tide and before low tide. The Army Corps of Engineers says the currents can push large ship sideways.
Port officials say this affects all vessels that draft more then 33 feet and that the largest ships only have two, four-hour windows each day to get through Mile Point without dealing with the strong currents.
In May, the Corps of Engineers authorized work to begin on the Mile Point project, but Congress had only approved $2 million of the $38 million needed.
"These ships are on a tight schedule. They need to get in and get out," said Jerry Scarborough of the Corps. "Doing this fix, it won't completely relieve the problem, but it will alleviate a great majority of it."
"My top priority as governor is job creation. Florida’s ports are critical to providing jobs for Florida families – and we can no longer wait on the federal government to fund such an important project," Scott said of his decision. "We need the jobs now. That’s why I am proud to announce that we are keeping our promise to the Jacksonville community by committing $36 million in state funding for the Phase II project to create more navigable, efficient and safe routes for major container ships at Jaxport."
Scott, who will be up for re-election next year, has been touring the state recently, visiting companies and organizations that are adding jobs. He was in town last week to announce his proposal to eliminate taxes on manufacturing equipment.
According to a study commissioned by the Florida Department of Transportation, every dollar invested in the seaports yields on average, approximately $7 to the state’s economy. But given that Jaxport has a growing cargo market, by completing this project and allowing the cargo terminals to be utilized more efficiently and fully, this project is estimated to yield more than $8 for every dollar invested.
"The Mile Point project promotes job growth and increases Jacksonville’s strength in the global supply chain," Mayor Alvin Brown said. "It’s an opportunity to welcome more ships while increasing our capacity to export domestic goods."