Article by: Justine Griffin

For full story visit: Tampa Bay Times

TAMPA — Port Tampa Bay is moving forward with plans to widen and deepen the Big Bend Channel after securing instrumental state and federal funding for the project.

The port was awarded a $5.7 million grant from the Florida Department of Transportation, which will be used toward the widening and deepening of the Big Bend Channel. The port’s board of commissioners unanimously approved the allocation at a board meeting on Tuesday.

The Big Bend Channel connects to the Tampa Harbor main channel and will be deepened from 34 feet to 43 feet and widened from 200 to 250 feet to accommodate larger ships. Anderson also noted that the port “has already invested $30 million in infrastructure for the growing Port Redwing maritime complex that will be served by the Big Bend Channel. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has estimated that the widening and deepening of the Big Bend Channel will cost $55.2 million.

“In my 35 years working in this industry, this is the largest and most unique project I’ve ever had the opportunity to work on,” said Paul Anderson, CEO and president of Port Tampa Bay. “This may be an unprecedented project, with private companies coming together with public entities to dredge a federal channel. It’s historic.”

In June, Port Tampa Bay board members approved a separate joint agreement with FDOT, which allocated $175,000 from the state toward the project and required the port to match that amount. Port Tampa Bay used those funds for preliminary engineering services, testing and permitting work toward dredging and widening the Big Bend Channel.

The port will receive $9 million from the Army Corp., this year. FDOT will be allocating funds over the next two fiscal years, which will require the port to match that amount. Mosaic Company and Tampa Electric, two of Port Tampa Bay’s largest tenants, will also contribute to funding the project. Those amounts were not disclosed.