The fabric of the Port of Port St. Joe continues to be weaved.

The fabric of the Port of Port St. Joe continues to be weaved.

A recent meeting among officials from the Port Authority, engineers, The St. Joe Company and state concerning spoil lands and infrastructure was characterized as “productive.”

Having paid the bill, the Port Authority is having constructive communications with attorneys Lewis Longman concerning liability and revenue issues.

The Gulf County Economic Development Coalition will hold a meeting this week to discuss and address challenges in providing the workforce that will be needed when an operational port, with, hopefully, Eastern Shipbuilding as a tenant, arrives.

The EDC, executive director Chris Holley said last week, also has a project referred by the state that would, if ultimately located in Gulf County, bring 100 new jobs.

A state rail grant continues to be an object of pursuit by port and economic development officials, the $6 million grant, matched in part by St. Joe, to rehabilitate rail lines between the port and Chattahoochee.

Maybe as encouraging as any local news, though, was the news out of Tallahassee that legislation has been filed to keep a pot of BP fine dollars in Northwest Florida.

The bill, filed by State Sens. George Gainer (R-Panama City), Doug Broxson (R-Pensacola) and Bill Montford (D-Tallahassee) aims to ensure state economic damage claims stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill remain in the eight disproptionally affected coastal counties, Escambia to Wakulla.

Under current law, the RESTORE Act, 75 percent of those economic development funds are to go to those eight counties, with the new Senate bill clarifying the funds are to be directly appropriated to Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc.

“These funds represent a tremendous opportunity to make a long-term investment in Northwest Florida’s economy,” Gainer said in a statement. “By sending the settlement funds directly to Triump Gulf Coast, Inc., we can ensure they are allocated in a transparent and accountable manner.”

Triumph Gulf Coast was created during the 2013 legislative session to ensure that economic damage dollars coming to the state would benefit the eight disproportionally impacted counties and also be properly accounted for.

The five-member Triumph Gulf Coast board, chaired by former Florida House Speaker Allen Bense, is responsible for using the settlement dollars to promote job creation through economic development over a span of 30 years.

The first payment of the more than $1 billion is to be deposited this year.

And given that mission, port and economic development officials have long identified Triumph Gulf Coast as the most likely source for the tens of millions of dollars that will be needed to dredge the federally-authorized and permitted shipping channel.

Triumph is specifically tasked with working with local goverments to make awards to programs and projects that meet priorities of economic recovery, diversification and enhancement of the impacted counties.

That includes infrastructure projects, grants to support workforce development programs and economic development projects, all of which align neatly with the development of the Port of Port St. Joe.

On the development front, the St. Joe Company has finalized licensing agreements with the wood-chip shipping company that will be utilizing the port area for operations.

The company has already entered into a lease with the Port Authority on a portion of the former Arizona Chemical property and finalized letters of agreement with the Port Authority and St. Joe, including for 12 acres around the former paper mill bulkhead, to ship from the Port of Port St. Joe.

Eastern Shipbuilding has for years leased another portion of that bulkhead and roughly 25 acres.

The wood chip company has already initiated preparation work on the Arizona Chemical site.

The Port Authority will hold a workshop on Jan. 30 to discuss the options and timeline for finalizing the engineering and design work on spoil infrastructure.

Before a shovel is turned in the shipping channel, there must be a site to dispose of the spoil, which by the end of the project is estimated to reach 5-6 million cubic yards.

The design work on the infrastructure is reaching its final stages.