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Solution may be in offing for St. Johns River

Carnival Fascination is among the big ships navigating the mouth of St. Johns River in Jacksonville.
Carnival Fascination is among the big ships navigating the mouth of St. Johns River in Jacksonville.
Leo King

Help may be on the way for crosscurrent problems in St. Johns River. The Corps of Engineers estimates that the entire project, if undertaken, would cost approximately $3 million.

U.S. Rep. John L. Mica (R), the Republican leader of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said today that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is moving ahead with a potential cost effective solution for addressing the Milepoint cross currents that create maritime safety and harbor access issues for Jacksonville Harbor.

Mica said, “These unsafe waterway currents represent the biggest obstacle to safety and future port development at Jacksonville, and hopefully this action by the Corps will help resolve the problem.”

During certain times of the day, access to Jacksonville Harbor is limited by strong cross-currents at Milepoint that create unsafe shipping conditions, particularly for larger vessels.

Mica and local officials have been working with the Corps to try to identify a cost-effective solution to the safety and access issues that does not require lengthy new project approvals or securing new funding. The Corps has identified a potential means to significantly reduce the cross currents, involving the partial removal of a training wall, and already has the necessary authority to move forward.

“Eliminating the Milepoint cross currents is critical to ensuring full access and utilization of Jacksonville Harbor,” Mica said. “If this proposal proves feasible, the Corps will be able to address these access and safety problems, and improve the competitiveness of the Port of Jacksonville, at a dramatically lower cost compared to previous proposals.”

The Seventh District solon added, “With the increasing size of shipping vessels and pending improvements to the Panama Canal, improving harbor access will position Jacksonville and Florida to play a more prominent role in modern maritime trade. I look forward to the results of the first phase of this project, and hope that we can proceed in improving harbor access in a cost effective manner,” Mica said.

In the first phase of the project, the Corps will conduct tests to determine the effects on the cross currents of removing a portion of the training wall, and whether doing so would produce any unintended consequences. The Corps expects to conclude testing in early 2011.

If testing demonstrates that the wall removal will have the desired results, the Corps could then continue work on completing the final designs, environmental work and securing state permits. A construction contract could then be let in September.


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