St. Johns River Dredging to Undergo Additional Evaluation
St. Johns Riverkeeper has filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction to postpone the first phase of the impending St. Johns River harbor deepening project until significant deficiencies in the studies by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are addressed and resolved.
In 2013, the Corps authorized a plan by JaxPort to deepen the last 13 miles of the St. Johns River channel from 40 to 47 feet to accommodate larger Post-Panamax ships.
Earlier this year, JaxPort announced a new plan to dredge 11 miles of the channel, instead of 13 miles, in an apparent effort to reduce the cost of the project.
St. Johns Riverkeeper claims that the new 11-mile plan must be formally evaluated by USACE to fully assess environmental impacts and the economic feasibility of the project before federal funding can be authorized and dredging is allowed to proceed.
“This new 11-mile plan simply does not exist according to the Army Corps,” states Lisa Rinaman, the St. Johns Riverkeeper. “Federal law requires JaxPort’s new plan to be thoroughly studied and evaluated, including the recalculation of the Benefit Cost Ration (BCR), yet nothing has been done by the Corps to fulfill this requirement.”
On November 30, 2017, the Army Corps responded to St. Johns Riverkeeper’s amended legal complaint by announcing plans to reopen the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) evaluation process to “consider whether the recent flooding conditions in the vicinity of the Jacksonville Harbor Navigation Project following the 2017 nor’easter and Hurricane Irma constitute significant new circumstances or information relevant to environmental concern sand bearing on the Jacksonville Harbor Navigation Project or its impacts.”
St. Johns Riverkeeper concluded that while representing an important step toward addressing a major deficiency in the Corps’ analysis, this critical assessment of flooding impacts must be completed before the project begins, not after the fact.