* By Lori Musser *
Once in a very long time, a seaport may have the chance to champion a project that brings benefits that will last for generations. By all accounts, this year is proving to be Port Tampa Bay’s turn.
The Big Bend Channel expansion is already delivering economic prosperity to the community, and its completion will jump-start major economic progress throughout the region, attracting industry and expansions, helping better serve fast-growing populations of west central Florida, and creating economies of scale that expedite goods to market at lower costs.
Big Bend Channel in Tampa Bay connects to the Tampa Harbor Main Channel, and it is integral to the movement of commodities through the seaport to the I-4 Corridor and west central Florida, the fastest growing part of the state of Florida.
Big Bend’s already substantial channel needs to be deepened and widened simply because of the advent of the big-ship era.
The $63 million project, which began last October, will wrap up in a few months. That is exciting news for a project which received a “Chief’s Report” two decades earlier. Congress authorized the project via the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 1999.
The Big Bend project serves private and public industry located in the upper east portion of Tampa Bay; they all need deeper water.
“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, president and CEO 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,” he added.