Make us your home page

Officials want Citrus canal to become a port

Citrus County’s 15-mile stretch of the old Cross Florida Barge Canal has the potential to become part of a “FedEx style distribution system” using barges, a Tampa attorney says.

Times (2006)

Citrus County’s 15-mile stretch of the old Cross Florida Barge Canal has the potential to become part of a “FedEx style distribution system” using barges, a Tampa attorney says.

TALLAHASSEE — Every Florida port wants a piece of the global shipping business: Port Miami. Port of Tampa. Port Citrus.

Port Citrus?

Citrus County leaders hope it could happen — right on their 15-mile stretch of the old Cross Florida Barge Canal near Inglis.

Attached to several Senate and House bills this session are proposals to add "Port Citrus" to the list of 14 public seaports eligible for state money. The first funding request if Citrus gets its wish? Study whether building a "Port Citrus" makes sense.

Don't think of it as a Port of Tampa, and it just might, say county and state leaders behind the proposal.

"We want a chance to step up to the plate and take a swing," said Rep. Jimmie T. Smith, R-Lecanto.

Tampa lawyer Fred Busack, the ports expert who first piqued county commissioners' interest at a presentation in February, said Citrus has reasons to believe:

• The nearby CSX rail line that already serves Progress Energy's power plants.

• A new concept in shipping that could elevate shallow ports after the Panama Canal expansion is completed in 2014.

The latter concept is based on a line of container ships called the Trans Sea Lifters, which do not enter ports but rather make brief stops outside shallow ports and load or unload barges that can enter shallow water.

The old Cross Florida Barge Canal, which is about 15 feet deep, has the potential to take those barges, making it part of a "FedEx style distribution system," he said.

"You have assets other folks would kill for," Busack told commissioners.

In the 1980s, officials envisioned the canal as a cargo port for barges — the first time a "Port Citrus" was mentioned — and later as a marina and industrial park to serve the area's commercial and recreational fishing industry. In 1984, the county established its own port authority, the county commission.

Those plans were dropped when the county didn't want to spend public money on the project, and since then the canal has been primarily used by recreational boaters. Nearby development proposals over the years have generated controversy, particularly over environmental impacts, particularly to the manatees passing through the canal.

But the current board of commissioners, desperate to diversify the local economy, is game.

"This is the first thing that I have seen in many, many years in Citrus County that offers the opportunity to have jobs that pay good living wages," Commissioner Rebecca Bays said at the February meeting.

Commissioners agreed to pay up to $50,000 for lobbying by Pennington, Moore, Wilkinson Bell & Dunbar, the firm that employs Busack.

By then, it was too late to work a new bill, but Sen. Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg, and Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, agreed to tack the proposal to designate Port Citrus on to transportation-related legislation they are sponsoring.

"It may open a door," Young said. "Why not look at it?"

Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, helped with the effort and thinks the designation would at least give Citrus a chance. But he's not getting too excited.

"I don't see anything wrong with developing an attitude and a strategy to use the barge canal," he said. "My personal opinion is it looks like a tremendously long-term program."


Ports in Florida

Currently, the state has 14 public seaports designated in statute: Port Canaveral; Port Everglades; Port of Fernandina; Port of Fort Pierce; Port of Jacksonville; Port of Key West; Port Manatee; Port of Miami; Port Panama City; Port of Pensacola; Port of Port St. Joe; Port of St. Petersburg; Port of Tampa; Port of Palm Beach

Officials want Citrus canal to become a port 04/12/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 12, 2011 9:56pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally


    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  2. Tampa Club president seeks assessment fee from members


    TAMPA — The president of the Tampa Club said he asked members last month to pay an additional assessment fee to provide "additional revenue." However, Ron Licata said Friday that the downtown business group is not in a dire financial situation.

    Ron Licata, president of the Tampa Club in downtown Tampa. [Tampa Club]
  3. Under Republican health care bill, Florida must make up $7.5 billion


    If a Senate bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 becomes law, Florida's government would need to make up about $7.5 billion to maintain its current health care system. The bill, which is one of the Republican Party's long-promised answers to the Affordable Care Act imposes a cap on funding per enrollee …

    Florida would need to cover $7.5 billion to keep its health care program under the Republican-proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.  [Times file photo]
  4. Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

    Real Estate

    Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

    A National Association of Realtors annual survey found record volume and activity by foreign buyers of U.S. real estate. Florida had the highest foreign investment activity, followed by California and Texas. [National Association of Realtors]
  5. Trigaux: Tampa Bay health care leaders wary of getting too far ahead in disruptive times


    Are attempts to repeal Obamacare dead for the foreseeable future? Might the Affordable Care Act (ACA), now in dire limbo, be revived? Will Medicaid coverage for the most in need be gutted? Can Republicans now in charge of the White House, Senate and House ever agree to deliver a substitute health care plan that people …

    Natalia Ricabal of Lutz, 12 years old, joined other pediatric cancer patients in Washington in July to urge Congress to protect Medicaid coverage that helped patients like Ricabal fight cancer. She was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma in 2013 and has undergone extensive treatments at BayCare's St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in Tampa. [Courtesy of BayCare]