By: Mike Mendenhall
The Jacksonville Port Authority received a $35 million refund in untouched funds from its 11-mile, $420 million harbor deepening project.
Officials from the Army Corps. of Engineers presented a check to JaxPort during its March 27 board meeting.
Port officials announced in May 2022 that the four-year effort to dredge the 11-mile federal shipping channel in the St. Johns River from a depth of 40 feet to 47 feet was completed ahead of schedule and under budget.
Jason Harrah, the Corps’ project manager for the harbor deepening, told JaxPort board members that final accounting on the project is expected to be complete in early January 2023 and any additional financial savings would also be refined to the port.
“It’s the result of the Corps of Engineers successfully navigating advantageous bidder competition for each of the three contracts of the deepening project,” Harrah said.
The project was funded by the federal government, the Florida Department of Transportation, JaxPort and the city of Jacksonville.
“We held those excess funds to see if there were any modifications of additional material because of storms we had to dredge,” Harrah told news reporters following the meeting.
“But ultimately, once we balanced the books, we had $35 million in excess with the potential to have more by the end of the year.”
JaxPort will have to determine how much of the refund will go to the city and what will be returned to the state. Port officials said March 27 that the calculation will be completed in the coming weeks.
“I know the JaxPort team is working hard to determine distribution amounts for each funding partner, and that will be announced in the near future,” JaxPort Board Vice President Daniel Bean said.
“But the ability to provide a substantial refund to our partners at the state and at the city level is a significant milestone that needs to be commended.”
The Corps deepened the channel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Blount Island Marine Terminal east of the Dames Point bridge, although Congress authorized dredging an additional 2 miles.
Port officials say the deeper channel will allow the port to attract larger Asian cargo carriers and post-Panamax vessels.
According to Harrah, there will also be $13 million refunded to the federal government that he says will be reapproporated to other U.S. Department of Transportation projects.
Harrah said after the meeting that the decision to not use blasting as part of the dredging process also saved money.