Port of Miami is looking to Gov.-elect Rick Scott's visit as it seeks money to dredge bay
By Zachary S. Fagenson
Gov.-elect Rick Scott was to visit the Port of Miami on Wednesday, but it was unclear whether he'd throw his support and the governor's mansion behind the port's push to secure the federal government's $75 million share of its deep dredging project.
Mr. Scott, on a 10-city tour of the state, was to host a roundtable discussion with Miami business leaders and tour the port Wednesday afternoon.
His economic plan looks to use seven steps to create 700,000 jobs in seven years. One step, focus on job growth and retention, seems to be where support for the port would fall, but it remains unclear.
"I've never heard Gov.-elect Scott speak about this," communications Director Brian Burgess wrote in an e-mail.
Port of Miami Director Bill Johnson, in Washington to push for the dredging, was unavailable, but port staff seemed to be waiting with bated breath for Mr. Scott's position as well.
"We haven't head anything," port spokesperson Andria Muniz said Tuesday morning. "Tomorrow is when we're going to hear his comments and when we'll know."
Dredging the port's south channel to a 50-foot depth has been a top concern of local governments and business organizations.
The port, at its Biscayne Boulevard entrance, put up a sign directed at President Barack Obama claiming funding the deep dredge would over time create an additional 33,000 jobs.
Officials are hustling to secure the funds so the dredge's last scoop would come as the Panama Canal reopens in 2014 so it can accommodate the new, post-Panamax class ships that will be coming through the revamped canal.
The canal, once finished, will allow ships carrying up to 13,000 20-foot equivalent units, an industry unit of measurement based on the 20-foot containers ships carry, to pass through.
Currently the canal only allows ships carrying up to 5,000 units to pass.
Miami is the only port south of Norfolk with congressional authorization to perform the dredging and Port Director Johnson has argued that if the huge volumes of cargo that will soon pass through the new Panama Canal don't come to Miami, they'll shift course to offshore ports in the Caribbean.
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