JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Army Corps of Engineers met with the public Thursday night to explain its new plan to dredge the St. Johns River to 47 feet so larger ships can get to Jacksonville's port.
JAXPORT would pay half of the $733 million cost and said it could mean thousands of local jobs.
The public had a chance to comment on the plan, which would call for dredging 13 miles of the river to make it 47 feet deep. It is now 40 feet deep. The process involves taking about 1.6 million dump truck loads of dirt out of the river.
R.B. Mackey has worked at his family-owned port logistics business for 11 years.
Goodnight International has expanded from a few family members to 30 employees as their port distribution business has expanded over that time.
Mackey and his operations director Laurie Capron would like to see a deeper shipping channel.
"Deeper boats means bigger boats, bigger boats means more availability of space as far as the cargo hold and how many containers fit on that," Capron said. "Yes, we would need more people to load those containers.
Goodnight International would hire more workers as would other port-related businesses like trucking companies. JAXPORT said upwards of 7,000 jobs could be created. If the river is not deepened, the fear is the port will shrink, losing business and jobs to other ports.
Lisa Rinaman is the St. Johns Riverkeeper. She and her group are concerned about potential damage to the river's ecosystem caused by more salt water intrusion.
"When you have increased salinity, you start losing habitat, losing cypress trees along the banks, but also vegetation in the water, so you lose habitat for fisheries, when you start losing your trees on the bank it could lead to more erosion issues."
The Riverkeeper wants to make sure a proper mitigation plan is in place.
"Making sure any damage that will be done will be undone with real mitigation, real improvements to the river," she said.
A final report isn't expected until April of next year then Congress would have to approve the project.
The soonest dredging would begin is 2017.
First Coast News