On April 16, JaxPort CEO Brian Taylor announced the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had issued its chief’s report on the proposal to dredge the St. Johns River shipping channel to a depth of 47 feet.
On Monday, U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown told members of the Rotary Club of Jacksonville federal funding for the project is virtually assured.
If the project is approved, along with others included in the Water Resources Development Act, the federal government would cover 65 percent of the $684 million bill. The state and city would be responsible for the balance.
“The federal government will now reimburse projects without a chief’s report, but our chief’s report is done, so we can be included,” said Brown.
She predicted bipartisan support for the act and that dredging will be an asset for the local economy.
“That’s a bill that will put people to work,” Brown said.
A port study said the dredging project will create 13,700 jobs.
She said she is not as happy about the state’s declining federal funds to build a high-speed rail system.
Brown, a member of the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure and chair of the Transportation Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, said it didn’t make sense when Florida rejected $3 billion in federal funding that could have helped develop a new train system in Florida. The funds were distributed to other applicants across the U.S.
“I’m very popular with my colleagues because 28 states got our transportation money,” she said. “China is spending $350 billion for high-speed rail. We started the train system, but now we’re the caboose.”
Also a member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Brown said Florida has some of the finest health-care facilities for veterans in the country, including the new Veterans Administration Hospital in Gainesville and Jacksonville’s VA Clinic.
She said she would support a public-private partnership to improve services for former members of the armed forces.
“When a person leaves the military, the Veterans Administration needs to back that person up,” Brown said. “I don’t think the Veterans Administration has to do all the work. They can partner with local agencies for a coordinated program.”
Defending the Affordable Care Act, Brown said providing a way for people to have health insurance who previously were unable to afford it improves outcomes. She gave as an example what might happen to a person with a medical emergency and no health insurance.
“Let’s say you pass out and you go to Shands (UF Health). They will ‘stabilize’ you. That means if you’ve got cancer, they’ll give you pain pills and send you home to die,” said Brown.