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February 5, 2019 12:00 PM, EST

Agency Seeks $15 Million for First Phase of Dredging at Florida Port

Port St. Joe St. Joseph Bay from the shore in Port St. Joe, Fla. (Fisherbray/Flickr)

The agency overseeing the Port of Port St. Joe in Florida has submitted a pre-application to Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc. seeking $15 million for the first phase of dredging the federally authorized shipping channel.

The pre-application, submitted this week, must be reviewed by staff for adherence to Triumph guidelines for disbursing some $1.5 billion in BP fine monies to eight northwest Florida counties. If approved, the proposal would move into the application stage.

Meanwhile, Triumph has scheduled a special meeting for Feb. 8 in Bay County to consider a recommendation to establish a recovery fund for four counties.

Former Speaker of the House Allan Bense, a Triumph board member, is recommending a Triumph Gulf Coast Hurricane Michael Recovery Fund to be “used for ad valorem tax relief, bridge loans and other possible relief efforts for local governments located in Bay, Franklin, Gulf and Wakulla counties.”

The Board of Gulf County Commissioners, city of Port St. Joe and Gulf District Schools have collaborated on a Triumph pre-application, approved for full application, seeking $21 million to offset tax losses over the next three years.

The Triumph meeting comes during the current session of the Florida Legislature, with comments by some key lawmakers concerning whether the state should dip into Triumph funds, earmarked to meet restoration needs after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, for Hurricane Michael recovery.

Railyard

Railroad running through Port of St. Joe., Fla. (Tom/Flickr)

The port authority pre-application lays out the potential for an operational Port of Port St. Joe, a key feature for economic development in a rural, underserved area of the state.

The port is part of an intermodal freight zone established by the state and has long been identified by neighboring counties and the regional planning authority as an integral cog to opening up economic development in the region.

Also, the port authority noted it had permits in hand, the product of a public-private partnership with the St. Joe Co. and Florida Department of Transportation, for dredging as well as engineering and permitting for dredge spoil infrastructure.

St. Joe has provided the sites for spoil disposal. The permits allow the port dredging to a depth of 35-feet, plus two feet.

Under the port authority’s pre-application, the first phase would be to dredge to 32-feet plus one foot, which would allow access to 80% of cargo ships.

With revenue beginning, the port authority would seek to complete the dredging in a few years.

The cost of the first phase would be $30 million, with the port authority seeking half from Triumph with state and federal grants accounting for the other half, according to the pre-application.

The first phase would take about 24 months, start to finish.

The full Triumph application will include an updated economic impact study, but the pre-application references a 2014 study (based on dredging beginning the following year) that estimated 800`-plus jobs created between 2015-25 with a total economic impact of $941 million by 2025.

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