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With Gov. Rick Scott, Mayor Alvin Brown and others behind him, JaxPort board Chair Joe York talks about channel deepening and its impact on the area. The Monday news conference highlighted recent board decisions approving an Intermodal Container Trans...
Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Mar. 11, 201412:00 PM EST

Task force named to look at port funding, channel deepening

by: David Chapman

To deepen Jacksonville’s ports will take money.

A lot of money. An estimated $684 million coming from federal, state and local sources.

With Gov. Rick Scott in town and the backdrop of the Hanjin Mundra cargo ship, Mayor Alvin Brown announced the creation of a task force that to consider how the city can cover its part of the financial investment needed to ensure larger ships, like the Mundra, can rely on Jacksonville’s port.

The financial goal is one of three for the group — the other two are a “thoughtful and deliberate” conversation on the economic and environmental aspects associated with deepening, and rallying community support for JaxPort strategic priorities.

The 13-person group will be chaired by John Baker, executive vice president of Patriot Transportation, and Martin “Hap” Stein, chairman and CEO of Regency Centers.

The other members are:

• Alvin “Pete” Carpenter, retired president and vice chairman of CSX

• Moody Chisholm, president of St. Vincent’s HealthCare

• Joe Debs, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of RS&H

• Adam Herbert, former University of North Florida president

• Ray Holt, City Council member

• Paola Parra Harris, attorney with Harris Guidi

• Matt Kane, owner of Greenshades Software

• Dr. Robert Lufrano, former chairman and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida (now Florida Blue)

• Janet Owen, vice president of governmental affairs, UNF

• Ron Townsend, communications consultant and former Gannett television consultant

• Quinton White, executive director of the Marine Science Research Institute at Jacksonville University

Brown singled out White’s inclusion as important — he has shown concern in the past about deepening — and the task force’s discussion will analyze all sides of the issue.

St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman said the nonprofit that acts as a voice of the river was not asked to participate on the task force, but did recommend White. He serves on the Riverkeeper’s technical team and will be a “solid voice” in the discussion, she said.

Rinaman said she was more concerned the task force would build support for JaxPort priorities before considering environmental issues.

“There must be an open, fact-based community discussion regarding pros and cons of the deep dredge before adopting JaxPort’s priorities for all,” she said.

Baker told the crowd the channel deepening issue is a “huge opportunity” for jobs and growth but also bears expenses and potential environmental issue. He said the group will be “thorough and timely” in its work.

And while there are no members of the port leadership team or board with the group, both welcome the engagement from the business and environmental community, said Nancy Rubin, port spokeswoman.

There are no details yet of a first meeting or timeline for when Brown would like to see recommendations.

The mayor made the announcement during a news conference highlighting the benefits of the Intermodal Container Transfer Facility, an on-dock rail service that will unload cargo directly from ships to rail.

The JaxPort board in late January approved the Dana B. Kenyon Co. to design and build the facility that will be located next to the Dames Point Marine Terminal and is expected to create 340 construction jobs. It will be completed by the end of next year.

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