JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Recently filed legislation proposes the City of Jacksonville pay a $10 million grant, and $12.5 million in loans, for a JaxPort project to raise the powerlines over the St. Johns River.
A representative said the lines currently sit at 175 feet and could prevent bigger boats from flowing into the harbor at JaxPort.
“The port is one of our jewels here in Northeast Florida. We’re trying to compete with ports across the Southeast; Savannah, Charleston,” Council Vice Chair Ron Salem, the council liaison to JaxPort, said. “The ships are getting larger, and there’s a concern that —even our existing business — their ships are getting larger. We could potentially lose existing business.”
JEA said the powerlines would be raised to 225 feet. In May, JaxPort marked the completion of a dredging project bringing the channel to 47 feet deep.
The project would cost up to $45 million. The city would fund half through a grant and loans, and the state is providing grants for the rest.
“Every major shipping line asks about our air draft capabilities, because the trend in shipbuilding has been to build bigger ships. Many of these large shipping lines have asked us directly in the past year about the completion date of this project,” a JaxPort representative said. They added that the change in height would help add or protect up to 15,000 jobs.
“A lot of people are looking at Jacksonville and they’re questioning: ‘When are you going to be at 225 feet? When can we start planning to bring our ships in here?’” Salem said.