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- 2013 - April - 2nd -

Dredging stops short of Hanjin site: JaxPort can pay for final mile

by Joe Wilhelm Jr., Staff Writer

The current Jacksonville harbor-deepening project falls short of the property proposed for the canceled Hanjin Shipping terminal, but the Jacksonville Port Authority can dredge the nearly one-mile section on its own if it finds a property tenant.

"(JaxPort and the corps) all made the decision to dial back the project to River Mile 13 and exclude that area that was the potential Hanjin terminal," said Jason Harrah, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project manager, in a Monday conference call.

The call served as an update on the progress of the harbor-deepening study.

When asked by Quinton White, Jacksonville University Marine Science Research Institute executive director, what the economic impact of losing the proposed Hanjin terminal is, Hannah said the terminal wasn't included in the study.

"The corps' policy does not let us include benefits in the study for a facility that is proposed for the future, so we did not include the terminal in the study," Hannah said.

"We did include the benefit from Hanjin Shipping cargo. They will be utilizing the MOL-TraPac terminal, so there is still a benefit there," he said.

JaxPort, the non-federal sponsor of the project, requested in 2011 that the corps focus its feasibility study on the 13-mile segment from the Atlantic Ocean to the edge of the TraPac terminal at Dames Point.

Both sides agreed to move forward with a 13-mile project after reviewing the results from the harbor deepening feasibility study, and JaxPort can apply to use the contractor hired by the corps to dredge the extra mile and pay for the additional work on its own.

"They could go out on their own and finish that dredging," said Harrah.

The corps' study determined the potential harbor depths and corresponding return on investments, with results of the study presented to JaxPort in 2012.

The current depth of the shipping channel is 40 feet.

The Jacksonville District of the corps has completed its draft report studying the effects of increasing the shipping channel depth up to 50 feet. The corps' recommendation resulting from the study is a depth of 45 feet.

JaxPort has requested a preferred local option of 47 feet, which would be the same depth as its closest competing port in Savannah, Ga.

If approved, JaxPort would pay for the cost of the additional two feet of depth.

The corps does not yet have the figures available on the cost difference between 45 feet and 47 feet, but they will be included in the report available to the public next month.

Harrah did discuss some of the factors that would increase the cost of deeper water.

"Forty-seven feet would cost JaxPort more in improvements needed to accommodate that depth and that cost would probably be about $100 million," Harrah said.

"There would also be engineering cost for removal of more material from the river bed and the longer timeframe to complete the project. We estimate it would take four to five years to complete dredging to 45 feet and six to seven years for 47 feet," said Harrah.

The draft report on the harbor-deepening project has been completed with a supplemental environmental-impact statement and will undergo district quality control review for the next two weeks. The changes will be applied to the report and then released for public review for 60 days beginning May 6.

Harrah expects a number of modelings and analyses to be available after it is released to the public, including shoaling analysis, storm surge analysis and ship wake impact analysis.

The study of the effects of dredging on St. Johns River tributaries won't be available until the report is sent to the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy.

"She will make the initial approval, and then the report will go through a series of reviews," said Harrah.

He estimated that the project could be sent to Congress for approval by 2015 and "the ribbon cutting," or completion, of the project could happen by 2020, if approved.

jwilhelm@baileypub.com

@photojoe71

(904) 356-2466

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