JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Obama administration is putting two JaxPort projects on the fast-track so the city can become an international trade gateway sooner rather than later.
The initiative is called “We Can’t Wait” and it couldn’t be more aptly named. The initiative aims to expedite the most critical infrastructure projects in the country.
"We cannot wait as a nation to complete critical projects related to ports. Our ports, JaxPort, mean jobs and dollars,” said JaxPort spokesperson Nancy Rubin.
The presidential plan is to speed up a study looking at the costs and benefits of dredging the St. Johns River. The Army Corps of Engineers was originally going to take until the end of 2014 to complete the study, but President Obama just pledged that it will now be done by April 2013.
"For us, what it means is shaving a considerable amount of time toward getting some of these projects completed and allowing them to start benefiting the folks in our region,” Rubin said.
But not everyone is as excited.
“We need a healthy river to have a strong economy as well,” said Lisa Rinaman.
Rinaman, the St. Johns Riverkeeper, believes a big rush may result in big mistakes.
“Obviously, we're supportive of a strong economy in Jacksonville and along the St. Johns River, but it's our job to make sure that we look at the environmental harm and protect the river,” Rinaman said.
She fears that by shortening the study time, potential environmental problems may fall through the cracks.
“There could be impacts on increased salinity that messes up the chemistry of the river. There could be issues with the actual dredging itself,” Rinaman explained.
But those at the port see it as simply a move to more efficiency and a move to more Jacksonville jobs.
“We are moving from talk to action and that’s what it’s going to take to keep this nation competitive globally,” said JaxPort CEO Paul Anderson.
Along with JaxPort, the President announced the Port of Miami, the Port of Savannah, the Port of New York and New Jersey, and the Port of Charleston will also have critical expansion projects expedited.
Rinaman plans to meet with the Army Corps of Engineers next week to discuss time lines as well as potential environmental impacts.
The Obama administration also announced plans to speed up the review of the Jacksonville Port Authority’s Intermodal Container Transfer Facility Project (ICTF) allowing review completion by July 2013.