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JaxPort amendment sinks in House committee

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Updated: 10/23/2013 11:51 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A last-minute effort by a Northeast Florida congresswoman to add JaxPort to a list of federal port projects has failed.

Late Tuesday, the House rules committee voted down an amendment by Rep. Corrine Brown. That amendment would have put JaxPort dredging up for a vote in the full house Wednesday.

Brown's amendment would have fast-tracked dredging the channel from 40 feet to 47 feet. Deepening the St. Johns River would allow for bigger cargo container ships.

Now, the future of business expansion for JaxPort is in jeopardy.

TraPac operates on 168 acres within JaxPort. It's an economic engine propelling a major piece of the Asian container business. Without deepening our channel, TraPac's terminal can only be partially loaded.

The Water Resources Development Act authorizes port projects across the country, but this week dredging at JaxPort was left behind.

"This is so important, not just for Florida but for the nation," Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown told Action News from London. “There are a lot of opportunities to put people back to work, create jobs."

Brown's amendment to add JaxPort dredging was voted down in a House committee Tuesday because a study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers won't be finished until April 2014, missing the end-of-the-year deadline by four months.

Project manager with the corps, Jason Harrah, said his team must follow multiple congressional check points. In addition, the president accelerated the project 14 months during a July visit to Jacksonville to announce his "We Can't Wait" initiative.

"To remove one of those reviews and to accelerate it back to December just wouldn't be appropriate as we are congressionally mandated to do these reviews to ensure that we are getting something the taxpayers can live with for years to come," said Harrah.

JaxPort CEO Brian Taylor weighed in Wednesday on the House committee's decision and issued the following statement to Action News:

"While it's disappointing that the amendment -- which would have benefited other regions as well -- did not happen, all is not lost. ... It is important to remember that there is also a Senate version of the bill containing different language that must be reconciled with the House final version.

"Until the House and Senate versions are hammered into one and that is approved, we are still laser-focused and working diligently to keep the deepening project on track.

"We must all also take a moment today to applaud the fact that our current Mile Point challenge is being supported throughout these pieces of legislation and will begin to generate jobs during construction and once complete will allow us the opportunity to help create nearly 3,000 additional jobs.

"We are more than ready to make that project a reality and again, send much appreciation to our local, state and federal leaders who continue to champion the Mile Point fix."

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