U.S. Bill Allows Port Everglades to Deepen, Widen Channels
Port Everglades officials are encouraged after the House of Representatives passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) this week by a vote of 417-3, including the Manager’s Amendment which would allow Port Everglades to move forward with its critical harbor deepening and widening project prior to formal congressional approval.
Now that both the House and Senate have passed their respective pieces of water resources legislation, they will appoint a conference committee to resolve differences between the two bills.
“House approval of the Manager’s Amendment was essential to allow Port Everglades to move forward with deepening and widening our harbor, which is critical to sustaining local jobs that are increasingly dependent upon the larger cargo ships that our customers are already starting to deploy to compete in today’s global marketplace,” said Steven Cernak, Port Everglades Chief Executive & Port Director, during a press conference at Port Everglades. “I have to credit our Broward County Commissioners, Broward County Congressional Delegation, especially Congresswomen Lois Frankel and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee leadership and their staffs, for working together to find a bipartisan solution to finally move this critical project forward. We continue to aim for the finish line, and this is an important step in the right direction.”
“Port Everglades is one of the economic giants of Florida,” said Congresswoman Frankel. “And, with the passage of the bipartisan WRRDA bill in the United States House of Representatives, our Port can position itself to create thousands of more jobs right here in our backyard.”
The next step in the process is to gain Senate support through the conference committee in favor of WRRDA that includes language similar to that in the House bill.
"Despite all of the excitement in Washington over the past few weeks, I am pleased that the members of Congress representing Broward County, in particular Lois Frankel, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Mario Diaz-Balart, worked together in a bipartisan way to include meaningful amendments to the Water Resource Reform and Development Act that positively impacts Broward County and the expansion of Port Everglades,” Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca said. “This project is a true job creator."
“We are tremendously grateful for the efforts of our Congressional delegation, especially Congresswoman Frankel and Congresswoman Wilson, for seeing that we will be able to move forward with the expansion of Port Everglades,” Broward County Commissioner Tim Ryan said. “Thanks to their advocacy and willingness to work in a bipartisan way with House committee chairs, we will be able to take the next steps with this project. It will take major investment on the part of Broward County, and that is a much easier step to take when we know that the federal government has expressed a willingness to be our partner in port expansion, which has a tremendous economic impact on our region. We look forward to working with our federal partners to see that Port Everglades can continue to be a world class port and major job creator for South Florida and beyond.”
On June 28, 2013, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released its draft report for deepening and widening Port Everglades' navigational channels to enable safe passage of deep draft post-Panamax cargo ships. According to the report, the total project will deepen Port Everglades' channel from 42 feet to 48 feet (when constructed, the project will include an additional two feet of allowable overdepth for a total of 50 feet), and widen the channel entrance so that cargo ships can safely pass cruise ships docked along the Intracoastal Waterway inside the Port. The total cost for deepening and widening Port Everglades' navigational channels is estimated at $313 million, which will be paid for through a combination of federal funds, port user fees and possibly state funds. No local tax dollars will be used for this project.
“We have immediate business needs now,” Cernak said. “Post-Panamax ships are already coming to Port Everglades thanks to our strong global trade connections, but some of these vessels have to be lightly loaded due to our existing channel depth limitations so we need deeper water to allow them and the port to operate more efficiently. We have been working with the Army Corps of Engineers for 17 years and cannot afford any further delay.”
“Today is a very important day for Port Everglades. I want to thank the Florida delegation for all of their efforts to move this project ahead. This is a critical step forward that will help to insure the economic competitiveness and vitality of South Florida,” said local businessman Terry Stiles, Chairman and CEO of Stiles Corporation.
Jose Diaz, Jose Alberto Diaz, Vice President & General Manager of Florida International Terminal, LLC, told the audience that his company’s future at Port Everglades depends on deeper waters for the larger post-Panamax ships that are coming to the port from South America.
“This is definitely a giant step. Rarely do you see this type of event with good news that represents so much for the future of Port Everglades,” Diaz said. “We are already seeing some bigger ships. The future is here.”