Lawmakers have cleared the way for Putnam County to join the state seaport council. A bill passed during the 2022 Legislative Session would allow Putnam County to request a grant to conduct a port feasibility study and add the county to the Florida Seaport Transportation and Economic Development (FSTED) Council.
Bill sponsors Senator Keith Perry and Representative Bobby Payne, explained the bill would help the county access state grants if the county port authority earns a permanent spot on the Council.
“The goal of Senate Bill 1038 is to recognize the Putnam County Port Authority and its facility at the Palatka barge berth as a public port in the state of Florida in order to encourage economic growth for the region,” Rep. Payne said.
Senator Perry explained that the port is one of the oldest in Florida, and was a transportation hub starting in the early 1880s. Palatka is located along the St. John River, and is home to the Putnam County Barge Port. It is approximately 60 miles upstream from Jacksonville and is accessible by CSX rail line and U.S. Highway 17.
The Putnam County Commission has plans, with help from the Army Corps of Engineers, to dredge a 12-foot-deep, 5,000-foot-long channel to improve vessel navigation and safety and increase the number, size and capacity of vessels using the barge port. Due to storms over the last 10-15 years, a previous dredging has filled with silt to its current depth of seven feet, TranSystems Vice President and former JaxPort CEO Rick Ferrin told the Putnam County Board of Commissioners in December.
SB 1038 would, until July 2024, allow Putnam County to apply for a feasibility study, and if the study comes back unfavorably, Putnam County would be removed from the FSTED Council. An amendment approved by lawmakers clarifies that FSTED would have to approve the study.