MIAMI (CBS4) – President Obama shook up South Florida leaders when his federal budget blueprint came out Monday and did not include money for a dredge project for the Port of Miami.
The port’s bosses want to dredge from 42 feet to 50 feet in the cargo channel to handle the giant cargo ships that will come through an expanded Panama Canal beginning in 2014. A possible doubling of cargo volume for the Port of Miami in the next decade could create more than 30,000 jobs according to port commissioned studies.
The big hitch—a $150 million price tag for the dredge project includes $75 million in federal money. That federal share is what got scratched out of the White House’s budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez cannot believe the decision. He said, “Quite frankly I am at a loss because all you hear from Washington is about job creation. All you hear from Tallahassee is about job creation. The state of Florida has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.”
If the dredge project is scuttled those potential jobs and the port expansion opportunity may not come back. Giant cargo ships steaming through an expanded Panama Canal could head to the Bahamas or, eventually, other U.S. ports.
Miami-Dade Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz said, “We are not in a good position that is for sure. If we were in the president’s budget we had an outside chance even with a dollar(a place in the budget.) Right now we are not, and the earmarks have been taken out. We have an uphill battle.”
Miami-Dade commissioners and much of Florida’s congressional delegation said they will not give up on a dredge project that is authorized and ready to go if only they can get the money.
Miami-Dade Commissioner Rebeca Sosa argued, “The answer is the dredging of the port. Not only do we solve the problem of jobs but at the same time we win the battle to continue bringing the cargo we need for the nation.”
Now more than ever proponents of the Port of Miami project are digging in, saying a region desperate for jobs cannot afford to have a dredging project sink under the weight of the federal budget debate in Washington.