The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its contractor, Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co. LLC, last week began dredging Miami's ship channel to 50-feet after more than 15 years of planning, design, permitting, gaining legislative authorization and settling lawsuits, the Port of Miami Authority said Thursday.
The latest estimate now pegs the project's cost at $206 million, and, as previously reported by American Shipper
, Congress has only authorized $181 million for the project. Inflation raised the project's cost between the time the Army Corps completed its feasibility study in 2004 and project authorization in 2007, but was not factored into the approved funding. The House Water Resources Reform and Development Act includes language to take care of the missing three years of inflation. The state of Florida has committed $112 million toward the project, which includes the $77 million federal share because Congress has not appropriated any money yet for the Army Corps to deepen the port. The Port of Miami and Miami-Dade County originally planned to contribute about $75 million toward the project, but have now seen their share rise to $108 million.
It is the first time that non-federal dollars are funding the federal share of an Army Corps project.
Port Director Bill Johnson has previously stated the port would pay for the inflation adjustment on its own because the project is so important to Miami's future economic growth. Officials say dredging will open up new trade opportunities and enable the port to double container volume to about 1.8 million TEUs by 2020 because it will be one of only three ports with unrestricted 50-foot access for mega-size vessels on the East Coast and the southernmost one to the Panama Canal, which is adding a third set of wider locks to accommodate much larger ships headed to and from Asia.
Port officials say the total project cost is $220 million when other expenses undertaken by the port, such as strengthening the wharves to handle larger vessels, are included.
Excavation was originally expected to start in August once Great Lakes Dredge was selected for the job. Officials say the work will be completed in time for the opening of the expanded Panama Canal in mid-2015.
"The importance of the dredging project cannot be overstated," Johnson said in a statement.