On Monday, the federal government doubled down on its support of the Jacksonville Port Authority (JAXPORT) as it announced that it was sending $32.4 million to the First Coast to continue its deep dredging efforts.
These latest funds are in addition to the $17.5 million sent by the federal government to JAXPORT last year.With Jacksonville looking to woo large container ships that will be hitting the Atlantic seaboard in the aftermath of the Panama Canal expansion, JAXPORT began efforts to deepen its facilities to 47 feet back in February. Congress passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act back in 2014 to help ports ready for the larger vessels.
“Deepening the harbor is essential to meet the needs of larger cargo ships transiting the Suez and Panama Canals as those vessels deliver cargo to JAXPORT terminals. A 47-foot depth for the federal channel will position JAXPORT as the first U.S. East Coast port of call for fully loaded New Panamax class vessels,” JAXPOT notes on its website. “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) conducted a comprehensive, years-long economic, engineering and environmental study of the project. In June 2017, JAXPORT’s Board of Directors allocated the first phase of port funding to the USACE for construction and environmental monitoring.”
According to Rutherford's office, the port improvements in Jacksonville are expected to see 15,000 new jobs on the First Coast and JAXPORT helps support almost $27 billion in total economic output and 132,000 jobs.
Freshman U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, R-Fla., praised the news on Monday and weighed in on why he thinks JAXPORT needs more federal funds.
“Continued federal investment into the expansion at JAXPORT is a huge win for our region,” said Rutherford. “As a strategically important asset to our national security, JAXPORT has proven to be a reliable and prosperous port of entry for commerce and trade on the Eastern Seaboard. This important deep dredge project will enhance the economic growth and international competitiveness of JAXPORT, and this increased investment marks a significant step toward furthering JAXPORT’s substantial contributions to Northeast Florida and to our nation.”
During his single term in Congress, Rutherford has been a supporter of increased federal funding for JAXPORT. Back in February, Rutherford sent a letter to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney and Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army Ryan Fisher calling for more federal funding of JAXPORT.
U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., has also focused on increasing funds for JAXPORT in recent weeks, hand delivering a letter to Mulvaney on the matter. He weighed in on the matter on Monday.
“Today’s announcement is welcome news for JAXPORT, our district, and our local and state economy. I am honored the administration granted our request, and I am proud of our office’s efforts to help secure these funds,” Yoho said. “I am thankful we had the opportunity to hand deliver our request letter to OMB Secretary, Mick Mulvaney so that he could understand the importance of the deep dredge navigation project. With so many of our 3rd District residents working in and around JAXPORT, this project will create good paying jobs in our district. It will also have a positive impact on the region and state by increasing global container traffic in Jacksonville.
“We are fortunate to have a harbor like JAXPORT,” Yoho added. “Its importance economically and to our national security cannot be understated. Moving forward, these funds will help complete a dredging project that increases our opportunities for future prosperity.”