Port clears major hurdle to dredging

Published: Thursday, November 21, 2013 at 09:45 AM.

Last week’s meeting of the Port St. Joe Port Authority was noteworthy not for what must be accomplished to secure a permit to dredge the shipping channel but what would not have to be done.

Shaving months and thousands of dollars off the timeline and budget for a permit to dredge the shipping, the Port Authority board was informed a significant federal process would be unnecessary.

Tommy Pitts, former port director and now project manager for engineers Hatch Mott MacDonald in securing a dredge permit, said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would not require a so-called Section 408 assessment of the dredge project.

A Section 408, in very broad strokes, is a study undertaken to determine how a dredging project might environmentally impact another Corps project.

Such a study would have cost the Port Authority, in the long-term, thousands of dollars but more importantly it would have significantly impacted the timeline for the dredging, extending it by as much as a year.

The key to the dredging for the Port of Port St. Joe is that under two letters of intent the St. Joe Company has secured with energy companies to transport wood pellets to domestic and international markets through the port hinged on dredging being completed sometime 2015.

In a dredge permit pre-application meeting with state and federal agencies in September, that component was the most worrisome to port officials.

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