Putnam port expansion plan clears Senate, could boost industry in central Florida

by | Feb 11, 2022

Industrial and consumer businesses in Palatka, Florida could have more attractive shipping and logistics options if the House passes a bill to give Putnam County a seat on the Florida Ports Council. The Florida Senate voted yesterday to approve a proposal to add Putnam County to the state’s ports infrastructure improvement council.

On its own, Putnam County has been working to expand a barge port near the city of Palatka, which is home to several consumer goods and industrial manufacturing plants along the river, including Veritas Steel, Forterra, a high-pressure pipe manufacturing company, among a number of others that would benefit from the barge port. Palatka has several large industrial facilities and space for expansion. Palatka is about 60 miles south of Jacksonville along the Saint Johns River.

The Senate voted 37-1 to approve the measure (SB 1038), which, if approved by the House and signed into law by the governor, would give Putnam County until July 1, 2024, to apply for a grant through the Florida Seaport Transportation and Economic Development Council. The grant would pay for a feasibility study on the benefits of establishing a port in Palatka. The proposal would also give the county a seat on the ports council, which is made up of port representatives from across the state.

The results of the study would determine if Putnam County’s membership on the council would become permanent. Part of the work needed to make the port feasible includes dredging the existing channel to 12 feet, from the current 7 feet, which a Senate staff analysis said limits access to “very shallow-draft barges and recreational vessels and doesn’t do much for business.”

The House version of the bill (HB 907) has cleared two committees and awaits an appearance before the Commerce Committee.


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