Congresswoman Corrine Brown passed an amendment to H.R. 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2013, to authorize funding for improved navigation at Jacksonville Port's Mile Point. Congresswoman Brown made the following statement:
"As a senior member on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Corps of Engineers, I have served as one of the biggest advocates for the Port of Jacksonville. I have also worked closely with the U.S. Corps of Engineers for several years to secure authorizing language and funding for the navigational improvements at Mile Point, and I am so pleased that with the passage of this amendment, that the Port will be even closer to fixing this dangerous problem," said the Congresswoman.
Congressman Ander Crenshaw added: "This amendment helps clear the way for the use of state and local funds on the Mile Point project, enabling work to begin immediately on one of Northeast Florida's most important job-generating projects," he said in support of Congresswoman Brown's amendment. "JaxPort and the state of Florida are prepared to put money forward to begin the long-overdue removal of navigation hazards at Mile Point. The sooner the work can begin, the better. The safe and efficient movement of cargo vessel traffic through Mile Point is central to the current and future economic prosperity and is in everyone's best interest."
Congresswoman Brown continued, "certainly, ports across America are suffering because of a lack of authorization for critical projects. Currently, ports that are facing navigation hazards have no way of mitigating these dangers and protecting lives and maritime assets. Moreover, the Water Resources Development Act, which is the traditional and only vehicle for Corps of Engineers authorizations, hasn't been reauthorized for several years and has no clear timeframe for future enactment.
My hometown Port of Jacksonville is a perfect example of this terrible dilemma, where the Jacksonville Port channel is being restricted by a navigation hazard that is creating a perilous crosscurrent and endangering both cargo and military vessels.
While the federal government and Port Authority have invested over $100 million to successfully dredge the 20 mile ship channel to a 40 foot depth, inbound vessels with drafts greater than 33 feet are allowed passage only during optimum high tide which occurs twice daily during two -- four hour windows, rendering the channel panamax capable only 35% of the time. Due to the dramatic growth in the number of vessels using the Jacksonville Harbor, including Asian container traffic, the situation has increased in severity, causing congestion throughout the harbor. Moreover, the Harbor Pilots have documented the hazards to navigation for all vessel traffic, noting that the currents are strong enough to turn a fully loaded vessel around and out of the channel.
The Jacksonville Port is northeast Florida's primary economic engine, responsible for 66,000 jobs and $19 billion in annual economic impact. It is poised to become one of the nation's leading gateways for international trade, as new Asian container traffic will create an additional 90,000 jobs for the region. However, these growth numbers are predicated upon a remediation of the dangerous crosscurrents in the area where the Intracoastal Waterway (IWW) converges with the Federal channel.
The Port Authority and State of Florida are prepared to pay for the entire cost of construction, including both the federal and non federal share, totaling $38 million. Design can start immediately and the construction can be completed within three years or less, consistent with the goal of the President's jobs initiative. The project will not cost the federal government anything and is a Pay-Go.
Beyond a doubt, immediate remediation is essential to Jacksonville Port Authority's ability to continue to create jobs and grow the economy of Northeast Florida, and upon completion, the Mile Point project will result in the addition of 3550 jobs for our area. Transportation and Infrastructure funding is a critical tool for job creation, and Department of Transportation (DOT) statistics show that for every $1 billion invested in transportation- infrastructure, 44,000 well paying jobs are created."