The “We Can’t Wait Initiative” shortchanges the harbor deepening study and our river.
Lisa Rinaman, St. Johns Riverkeeper: "We can wait. We can't afford to shortchange the evaluation process. By doing so, we are potentially jeopardizing the health of our region's most valuable economic and ecological asset, the St. Johns River, based on incomplete studies and speculative job projections."
On July 19, 2012, President Obama issued the "We Can't Wait Initiative,” expediting the study of the proposed St. Johns River Harbor Deepening Project. This decision dramatically reduced the study schedule by 14 months, potentially jeopardizing the integrity of the analysis by providing the Army Corps of Engineers with insufficient time to thoroughly evaluate this complex issue.
As a result, some conclusions in the recently released Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) are vague, some concerns are not even addressed, and many of the required studies have not yet been completed, despite the fact that the public comment period ends on July 31st. The following studies have not yet been completed: modeling of fish and macroinvertebrate communities, water quality modeling, tributaries and salt marsh modeling, groundwater report prepared by the U.S. Geological Survey, hydrodynamic modeling, storm surge and coastal modeling, and ship wake modeling.
In addition, the mitigation plan to offset potential environmental impacts is woefully insufficient, and the study of the potential local economic impacts conducted by a JAXPORT consultant has not been released to the public or independently peer-reviewed for accuracy.
St. Johns Riverkeeper believes that President Obama has made a significant mistake by fast-tracking this critical decision when so much is at stake for the St. Johns River and the communities of Northeast Florida.
The dredging of the St. Johns River from 40 to 47-feet could result in significant changes in salinity, increased shoreline erosion, impacts to fisheries, more frequent algal blooms, and the loss of wetlands, aquatic grasses, trees and habitat. In addition, the dredging project is estimated to cost taxpayers at least $733 million, including an unspecified amount for annual maintenance dredging and supporting infrastructure.
“We are asking President Obama to give the Army Corps of Engineers more time to complete the study and make sure the proposed Harbor Deepening Project has been thoroughly evaluated,” says Lisa Rinaman, the St. Johns Riverkeeper. “This critical decision has significant long-term consequences for the St. Johns and our community, requiring caution and careful scrutiny. We can wait. We must get it right.”
Learn more about this critical issue.