An improbable partnering among Jacksonville business leaders, city officials and environmentalists in the contentious debate over a project to dredge the St. Johns River offers long-sought benefits for the waterway’s health as well as significant economic gains for the region.
The agreement — hammered out in months-long, intense negotiations that continued late into last week among groups with vastly different interests — will be unveiled Monday, but a draft copy of the document provided to the Times-Union shows an effort aimed at boosting the dredging project while giving river advocates and watchdogs a major victory of their own.
In a move sought by environmentalists and regulators for decades, the linchpin of the agreement commits the JAX Chamber, City Hall and the Jacksonville Port Authority to finding money and permission to breach the Rodman Dam in Putnam County, which would restore the Ocklawaha River and its forested floodplains and infuse millions of gallons of fresh water into the St. Johns River.
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At the May 28 meeting, the Alliance Board of Directors heard presentations by Brian Taylor, JAXPORT CEO, and Eric Summa, Environmental Branch Chief, US Army Corps of Engineers. Taylor focused on the economic benefits of the proposed deepening of the river from 40 to 47 feet from "mile zero" at the Atlantic Ocean west to "mile 13." Additional jobs created by the project is estimated at 13,844. The project return-on-investmnet calculates each $1 invested returns $14.80 to the economy. Summa discussed the results of the Corps' environmental impact study. The study focused on the dredging project's changes to the river's salinity and its impact on freshwater wetlands, submerged aquatic vegetation, fish, shrimp and groundwater; and monitoring and mitigation.
Nov. 2013 - The Central Florida Water Initiative report was created by a consortium of three water management districts, local and county governments in Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole and southern Lake Counties plus utilities serving those areas. The region's population is expected to grow from its current 2.7million to 4.1 million by 2035 and will need to find additional sources of water. Potential solutions include surface water such as the St. Johns River and Ocklawa rivers.
The St. Johns River Alliance board heard a presentation at its Nov. 22 meeting, click here to see it.
Read the official report here http://www.cfwiwater.com/
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St Johns River Alliance
2029 North 3rd Street
Jacksonville Beach, Florida 32250
(904) 247-1972 x 414