Jacksonville, FL - President Barack Obama made no firm commitments during a visit to JAXPORT Thursday, but with a number of big projects pending federal approval for the Port Authority, local leaders were still quick to draw hope.
And that hope may, in fact, have a foundation.
“I do feel that there is some movement toward the ‘Water Bill’, which is the port bill,” says Democratic Congresswoman Corrine Brown.
That bill specifically, the Water Resources Development Act, contains the work allowance for the Mile Point project- fixing dangerous cross currents on the river which prevent the largest ships from accessing the ports for most of the day. The bill has passed in the Senate, but the House has been working on a companion for months.
“The sooner that work can begin on the long-overdue removal of navigation hazards at Mile Point, the sooner Mile Point becomes a safer point to welcome large cargo container ships the region,” says a statement issued by Congressman Ander Crenshaw.
Crenshaw joined several Congressmen in writing a letter to the Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure urging action on this bill. Brown, however, got to sit with the new Transportation Secretary en route to Jacksonville on Air Force One for the President’s speech. She says the new leadership and several recent meetings lead her to believe we will see that authorization come through, possibly by the end of next month.
But that’s really just one of many projects still pending.
“It’s not deep enough now. We only got 40 feet of water for the super ships that are gunna be coming,” says International Longshoremen’s Association Executive Vice President Charles Spencer.
Spencer says for the port to stay competitive, deepening the water needs to be a priority. That works hand-in-hand with one of the focal points of the President’s speech, the rise in “super containers”.
JAXPORT Board Chair Joe York says those ships allow for the transport of more goods more efficiently.
“If we’re not providing that service, we will slowly but surely be out of that game,” he says.
Being a player in that game, however, means moving forward with another big project, but one he hopes the federal government would support based on the President’s speech.
“An indication to our deep water, something we ultimately believe is a long term need,” York says.
Before diving too deeply in to whatever the next commitment will be, York says they’re happy to be hearing about progress on Mile Point, and looking forward to the instant benefits that correcting the currents will bring.