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Jax Daily Record Friday, May. 4, 201212:00 PM EST

Movement on Mile Point project

by: Joe Wilhelm Jr.

An estimated $36.5 million project developed to improve access to the shipping lanes that serve Jacksonville’s ports took a important step forward Thursday by gaining the approval of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Chief of Engineer’s Report from the Corps was approved Thursday for Jacksonville Port Authority’s Mile Point project and will be sent to the assistant secretary of the Army to forward to Congress to begin the authorization process.

One of the legislators credited with lending support to the project was anxious to review the report.

“The safe and efficient movement of cargo vessel traffic through Mile Point is central to the current and future economic prosperity of JaxPort and the region. Approval of the chief engineer’s report helps move that project ahead. I look forward to reviewing the specific details of the report and working together for solutions that will keep our harbor growing now and in generations to come,” said U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw.

The Mile Point project was developed to eliminate or alleviate crosscurrents that occur during low tide at the confluence of the St. Johns River with the Intracoastal Waterway. These conditions affect all vessels that have a transit draft greater than 33 feet inbound and 36 feet outbound, reducing their ability to port to two four-hour windows. The project would increase those windows to about six hours.

Port CEO Paul Anderson said he was pleased to hear the news and thanked all the legislators who supported the project. He said he would depend on their support again as the port pursues federal funding for the project through a Water Resource Development Act Bill.

“I don’t anticipate one this year based on what I’m hearing in Washington, but I’ll leave that to the experts and prognosticators up there. We are hoping that because there hasn’t been a WRDA bill since 2007, that they would take this up very urgently in the next Congress in January of next year,” Anderson said.

Authorization of the project and start of construction are on the port’s wish list for 2013.

“I think for everybody who cares about economic growth in Jacksonville, this is a significant achievement in a very arduous process that the Corps goes through reviewing America’s critical infrastructure projects and ports,” said Anderson.

Jerry Scarborough, chief of Water Resources Branch in the Project Management Division for the Jacksonville District of the Corps, said he was also pleased with the project’s progress.

“The signing of the chief’s report was great news. It signifies completion and approval by the Corps of the feasibility study,” said Scarborough.

Infrastructure projects seeking federal funding are required to have Corps approval before they can be authorized.

The port has taken a proactive approach to the process and worked with the Corps to design the improvements to Mile Point while the project moved toward authorization and appropriation. The port has contributed $500,000 to the design phase of the project and the Corps has provided $1.5 million.

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