Author Topic: JaxPort Dredging Fiasco?  (Read 14683 times)

jaxlongtimer

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JaxPort Dredging Fiasco?
« on: May 12, 2021, 05:31:15 PM »
Unbelievably, after JaxPort increased the City's storm water vulnerabilities*, risked the river's ecosystems and spent hundreds of millions for a dredging project, it now appears that it may not be fully useful for its intended purpose.

That is, and only partially so at that, unless tens of millions more are spent to raise JEA's power lines over the river which has, amazingly, up to now, never been addressed.  Further, the Dames Point Bridge remains a height limitation for some ships.

Just another example of our local Authorities manipulating City leaders and citizens to get their way on projects with grandiose plans, false urgency to short circuit appropriate due diligence, input and debate and prostituted consultant projections - only to lead to later catastrophic failures, broken promises, finger pointing scandals and taxpayers holding the bag. 

Many questioned the value of the dredging for many reasons and here we are with a major failure to address those concerns properly.  This is a fine example of what JTA also appears to be doing with the AV/Skyway.  We should expect a similar outcome... or worse.

Between JPA, JTA and JEA, I am trying to figure out if there is a competition between them to be the most incompetent and manipulative  :-[.

Quote
Jaxport: JEA must raise power lines over river if port is to attract larger vessels

The Jacksonville Port Authority is pushing to have the high-voltage power lines over the St. Johns River raised, a multimillion dollar project it says is necessary to fully benefit from the harbor deepening project to be completed next year.

The 175-foot height restriction imposed by the lines means the port will struggle to lure larger ships that would otherwise be attracted by what will soon be deeper water in the shipping channel, Jaxport Chief Operating Officer Fred Wong said.

"The only way we can optimize the use of that channel is to use larger and deeper vessels," Wong told the Business Journal in an interview. "The more constraints you end up pulling off of there, the better it is for the carriers when they’re planning services for the future."....

....If the height restriction is not eliminated, Wong said, the port would still be behind competitors like Savannah even after the deepening project was complete. Savannah can accept ships with masts going up to 185 feet...

....The port's push comes three years after dredgers began work on deepening the shipping channel, the culmination of years of political fighting to get permission and money for the $410 million project.

The need for more space above the water — known in the trade as "air draft" — was not envisioned as part of the project when the port embarked on the deepening work, which it has long argued is necessary to remain competitive....

...."Raising the power lines to increase the air draft is essential to allow the larger vessels to safely traverse the newly deepened channel and call on the Blount Island Marine Terminal," the port said in the information packet sent to JEA.

But it is unclear who would pay for the work.

"That would be the million-dollar question our executive leadership is discussing," Wong said.....

....For the port, the answer to that question comes with some urgency. Millions have already been spent on the deepening: The federal government has put $192 million into making the river deeper, with the state chipping in $140 million and the city ponying up $70 million.

While that work won't be for naught if the lines aren't raised, Peek said, without the elimination of the height restriction, the port won't fully have the benefits that a deeper shipping channel has long promised....

https://www.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/news/2021/05/12/jaxport-air-draft-jea-wires.html?ana=e_jac_bn_breakingnews_breakingnews&j=90559804&t=Breaking%20News&mkt_tok=NjczLVVXWS0yMjkAAAF9AU5Lxki1hCp_u79MNVb-7jhJRPdrHxigK_FeAqk4fZEO5e-oCOd-BKGlSvo-0V1xXzHx562QSq0Fev2aTnyJTbhxKToc3Bh9-ipjmSw9KJp_iJvT14I

* Coincidentally, Nate Monroe wrote a column today on this very subject:

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Nate Monroe: A century of dredging has left Jacksonville vulnerable to storm surge, study finds

The agency budgeted no money for environmental mitigation or for increased flood-protection, and city officials, who are now laudably more engaged on issues like climate change and resiliency — the city's capacity to withstand storms — have so far shown no interest in putting real money behind efforts to counteract the damage being done by constantly deepening the river.

https://www.jacksonville.com/story/news/columns/nate-monroe/2021/05/12/nate-monroe-dredging-has-made-jacksonville-vulnerable-storm-surge/5046306001/
« Last Edit: May 12, 2021, 05:47:05 PM by jaxlongtimer »

marcuscnelson

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Re: JaxPort Dredging Fiasco?
« Reply #1 on: May 12, 2021, 06:47:37 PM »
I don't think this is only the government's fault. Businesspeople like CSX's former CFO advocated for the dredging years ago:

https://www.jaxdailyrecord.com/article/city-has-catching-do-rail-service

Quote
He said the location of Jacksonville’s port, which is actually much farther west than other East Coast ports, gives Jacksonville a competitive edge because freight transport by water is cheaper. That should appeal to businesses that are looking to transport freight inland through a Florida port.

“Jacksonville’s the only port in Florida where it makes economic sense,” Eliasson said.

However, he believes Jacksonville will have to invest in the port, including the proposed dredging project to deepen the harbor channel to 47 feet.

“We really, until the last five or six years, haven’t focused on our port, but we’re really going to have to make some investments,” Eliasson said.

“If we’re going to be competitive, we’re going to have to invest in our port infrastructure,” he said. “You can’t survive long term on 41 feet.”
So, to the young people fighting in this movement for change, here is my charge: march in the streets, protest, run for school committee or city council or the state legislature. And win. - Ed Markey

jaxlongtimer

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Re: JaxPort Dredging Fiasco?
« Reply #2 on: May 12, 2021, 07:18:16 PM »
I don't think this is only the government's fault. Businesspeople like CSX's former CFO advocated for the dredging years ago:

https://www.jaxdailyrecord.com/article/city-has-catching-do-rail-service

Quote
He said the location of Jacksonville’s port, which is actually much farther west than other East Coast ports, gives Jacksonville a competitive edge because freight transport by water is cheaper. That should appeal to businesses that are looking to transport freight inland through a Florida port.

“Jacksonville’s the only port in Florida where it makes economic sense,” Eliasson said.

However, he believes Jacksonville will have to invest in the port, including the proposed dredging project to deepen the harbor channel to 47 feet.

“We really, until the last five or six years, haven’t focused on our port, but we’re really going to have to make some investments,” Eliasson said.

“If we’re going to be competitive, we’re going to have to invest in our port infrastructure,” he said. “You can’t survive long term on 41 feet.”

Lot's of people, particularly those who stood to benefit financially, such as CSX that serves the port, have supported this project.  And just as many or more opposed it.  Weighing in on the dredging like this is fine but it is just a high level opinion/wish and certainly shouldn't be taken that such individual would necessarily endorse the project had they had full knowledge of the details.  I would also venture to say that if CSX had been asked to contribute millions toward this project as a beneficiary of it, they might have been more circumspect in how they supported it.  And, no way they would invest in dredging the river if they knew ships couldn't take advantage due to height limitations.  It's also easy to support something when you have no skin in the game and can't be held accountable for the results.

In the end, the responsibility and accountability solely falls to the leadership of the Port to do proper due diligence to determine the ROI, feasibility, risks, benefits, etc. for a project like this and to execute a plan that delivers on the promises made to gain approval.  In gathering public support, they also should be fully transparent and honest about their findings, decision making process and the full scope and impact of the project.

I don't see that happening here based on this story.  Further, I am concerned that, over time, this project also won't deliver with respect to promises about its economic benefits*, accentuating damaging storm surge or negatively impacting the ecosystem of the river. 

This height issue being swept aside up until now is just another example, to me, of a manipulative process to get things done, opposition be damned, and then say "oops" later when there is no turning back and we citizens are thus extorted.  As stated earlier, the Skyway is another such example.

*If the economic benefits are so certain, the Port user fees should cover the full cost of the dredging without taxpayer subsidies.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2021, 07:29:14 PM by jaxlongtimer »

Charles Hunter

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Re: JaxPort Dredging Fiasco?
« Reply #3 on: May 12, 2021, 08:45:07 PM »
I'm guessing that raising the power lines was NOT in the Environmental Impact Statement, or the documents used to calculate the cost:benefit ratio of the dredging.  It does, however, weaken the port's argument to dredge west of the Dames Point Bridge - it is not getting any higher.

Lostwave

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Re: JaxPort Dredging Fiasco?
« Reply #4 on: May 13, 2021, 09:36:41 AM »
How would raising power lines help?  Dames Point Bridge only has 175 foot clearance.

Captain Zissou

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Re: JaxPort Dredging Fiasco?
« Reply #5 on: May 13, 2021, 10:00:59 AM »
How would raising power lines help?  Dames Point Bridge only has 175 foot clearance.
The article mentions the blount island terminal which is east of the dames point. The power lines in question are about 1.5 miles east of the bridge.

Charles Hunter

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Re: JaxPort Dredging Fiasco?
« Reply #6 on: May 13, 2021, 10:07:13 AM »
How would raising power lines help?  Dames Point Bridge only has 175 foot clearance.

There are about 6900 feet (1.3 miles) of wharf along Blount Island west of the JEA power lines.  Blount Island east of the power lines is part of the USMC facility and unavailable for JaxPort activity.

fieldafm

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Re: JaxPort Dredging Fiasco?
« Reply #7 on: May 13, 2021, 10:20:29 AM »
How would raising power lines help?  Dames Point Bridge only has 175 foot clearance.

The current dredging project ends at the bridge. The TraPac, breakbulk, ro/ro and cruise terminal West of the Dames Point will continue to service their current ship capacities.  Most of the larger ships (and any Post-Panamax ships over a 165ft draft height) are being processed at the SSA terminal East of the bridge, on Blount Island. The SSA terminal just received large berthing upgrades and of course the deeper shipping channel.  The power lines split Blount Island in half... East of the power lines is the USMC/BMC terminal, and West of the power lines is the SSA terminal. 

Its curious that JaxPort is pushing JEA for this based on two events- JaxPort losing the CHA CGM service that called on the SSA terminal it shared with Charleston, Savannah, Norfolk and New Jersey, and the Hapag-Lloyd EC service that called on the TraPac terminal... and JaxPort's desire to purchase JEA's former NGS property (which has terminal access within the Blount Island channel).   

The loss of the CMA CGM service had more to do with consolidation in the shipping industry, which happens from time to time (particularly at a time when global shipping trade is contracting due to the year-plus-long pandemic)... and doesn't appear to have anything to do with container volume or draft capabilities. Hapag-Lloyd shifted some of the container volume to another line that calls on TraPac. While there is a net decrease in container volume, its really negligible due to the increase in containers on the other East Coast Loop line at TraPac.  JaxPort has gained and lost these type of routes for decades due to the ebbs and flows of the trade industry and specific business flows of individual companies.

Also really skeptical of JaxPort's desire for JEA's property.  There seems to be a lot of smoke, on this issue.
« Last Edit: May 13, 2021, 11:17:15 AM by fieldafm »

vicupstate

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Re: JaxPort Dredging Fiasco?
« Reply #8 on: May 13, 2021, 10:21:29 AM »
Just think of the money that could have been saved if some time in the 1950's or so, the port had been moved to the Mayport area.  No need to dredge (which has been done more than once), no need to have a super tall bridge over the St. Johns.  No need to raise the power lines.  Probably would have saved a billion dollars. 
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marcuscnelson

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Re: JaxPort Dredging Fiasco?
« Reply #9 on: May 13, 2021, 11:10:22 AM »
I guess? Not sure what value there is to thinking about it now. It's been 70 years, the port is where it is, and we have to deal with it.
So, to the young people fighting in this movement for change, here is my charge: march in the streets, protest, run for school committee or city council or the state legislature. And win. - Ed Markey

jaxlongtimer

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Re: JaxPort Dredging Fiasco?
« Reply #10 on: May 13, 2021, 11:48:27 AM »
Just think of the money that could have been saved if some time in the 1950's or so, the port had been moved to the Mayport area.  No need to dredge (which has been done more than once), no need to have a super tall bridge over the St. Johns.  No need to raise the power lines.  Probably would have saved a billion dollars.

From an historical perspective, it probably made sense well over a hundred years ago to put the port where the people, factories and commodities were, i.e. where it is now.  Connecting rail access was there and back then, too, ships, being a fraction of today's sizes, probably could mostly navigate the river with minimal man-made "improvements."  Most certainly, there were no concerns about height restrictions due to bridges or power lines  8).  (FYI, our first bridge, the original Acosta, built in the 1920's was inland of the mid-century port facilities that stretched into the heart of Downtown.  Additionally, even it had a lift span to accommodate taller boats headed down river.). Resilience from hurricanes might have also been a concern.

While maybe "ideal" in theory, I am not sure Mayport could handle the size of the port in terms of wharf frontage and slips unless they could take over Mayport NAS's real estate which is likely never to happen in the next several lifetimes.  Even then, I am not sure if the size of the the Navy's ship basin matches up to the infrastructure at JaxPort.

As for the rest of Mayport, we couldn't even figure out how to get a single cruise ship ported there.  A big issue, aside from water-side and land-side assets, is access.  There is no easy way out of Mayport to the rest of the world and no way the Beaches community would want trucks coming their way.  Ironically, decades ago, I believe Mayport had a rail connection that ran down what is now Beach Blvd. but we also forsook that opportunity.
« Last Edit: May 13, 2021, 12:35:59 PM by jaxlongtimer »

Charles Hunter

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Re: JaxPort Dredging Fiasco?
« Reply #11 on: May 13, 2021, 12:15:59 PM »
^ Good summary of why the port is where it is.

Just a note about rail access, there was also a rail line through Arlington directly to Mayport. The Wonderwood bridge over Greenfield Creek and Pablo Creek (Intracoastal Waterway) follows the old Jacksonville, Mayport, and Pablo RR causeway (JM&P, aka "Jump Men and Push" due to reported unreliability). As I recall, part of JTA's permit to build the bridge required them to remove some of the causeway, to re-open natural water flows.

vicupstate

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Re: JaxPort Dredging Fiasco?
« Reply #12 on: May 13, 2021, 12:47:27 PM »
I understand the historical reasons for the port being where it is, but imagine if in the '90's when Naval facilities all over the country were closed, Mayport had been closed instead of Cecil.  Move the port to Mayport.  Ships would port virtually next to the open Ocean. Surely that beats the situation with Savannah. No need to dredge or raise power lines. No worries of Dames Point for the cruise ships. The Wonderwood connector made Mayport a lot more accessible, which presumably would have been built sooner under this scenario.  I know its water under the bridge (pun intended) but if you could turn back time, it would make a lot of sense in many ways.     
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jaxlongtimer

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Re: JaxPort Dredging Fiasco?
« Reply #13 on: May 13, 2021, 01:39:32 PM »
I understand the historical reasons for the port being where it is, but imagine if in the '90's when Naval facilities all over the country were closed, Mayport had been closed instead of Cecil.  Move the port to Mayport.  Ships would port virtually next to the open Ocean. Surely that beats the situation with Savannah. No need to dredge or raise power lines. No worries of Dames Point for the cruise ships. The Wonderwood connector made Mayport a lot more accessible, which presumably would have been built sooner under this scenario.  I know its water under the bridge (pun intended) but if you could turn back time, it would make a lot of sense in many ways.     

I understand your point but you must consider that the likelihood of that scenario was close to zero.

They made a mistake closing Cecil here and it was the only base that they closed and then voted to reopen again (basically, an admission of their mistake).  Unfortunately, for the Navy, the community had already moved too far forward with converting it to civilian use and the costs and public support did not lend to its reopening.

Given that poor decision by the Navy, it would have been far worse and likely also more impactful locally, if they closed Mayport (not that it was ever considered).  Aside from Newport News, the Navy really has no other place on the Eastern seaboard where they could likely duplicate or transfer Mayport's assets and advantages (including ones you cite for JaxPort that apply equally to the Navy*), especially taking into account location and proximity to Jax NAS and Kings Bay.  The Navy is deemed to be over-concentrated in Norfolk (Norfolk is considered by many a "Pearl Harbor" risk) and, to this day, held back only by politics, the Navy has expressed interest in re-basing aircraft carriers at Mayport, its only real alternative.

* There aren't many ships that draft more than an aircraft carrier, above or below the water line, so, clearly, the Navy is looking at the same issues JaxPort is and they likely have even fewer options so the ocean-side port is even more critical to them.
« Last Edit: May 13, 2021, 02:42:32 PM by jaxlongtimer »

bl8jaxnative

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Re: JaxPort Dredging Fiasco?
« Reply #14 on: May 14, 2021, 12:07:47 PM »
Mayport is far too small to accomodate all of that.

And if if the area was big enough, it require some serious reworking of mother earth to be able to offer even half as many berths.  Dredging in comparison is a breeze.