Port Commission Will Vote on its Plan March 8

The Ocean Highway Port Authority (OHPA) commissioners are preparing to vote on a final version of their new master plan March 8, 6 p.m., at the Nassau County Commission chambers in the James S. Page Government Complex, 96136 Nassau Place, Yulee, 32097.

If you want to comment, the deadline is Monday, Feb. 28.

Three important issues are being settled that will potentially have major impacts on neighborhoods near the port and on waterways throughout Nassau County. Here is what we know about the decision-making so far:

 — The plan for creating a cruise ship port of call business at the port appears to be going down by at least a 3-2 vote of the five-member commission. It has been opposed by the port operator, U.S. Customs, downtown neighborhoods and merchants, and several community non-profits.

— The plan for creating a bulk dry cement powder business shipped in two-ton polypropylene bags got off to a bad start Jan. 31 when bag ruptures sent – on a calm, dry day – fine cement powder several blocks into nearby residential streets, including the St. Michael’s Church school. The entire “test run” shipload has been stored outdoors, unprotected, ever since. There has been at least one other rupture, on Feb. 22.

We are told there has been much internal contention that caused the most recent OHPA regularly scheduled meeting to be abruptly canceled without an explanation. We are told that the port operator has been arguing strongly in favor of the cement powder business and says the port should set up a pneumatic tube unloading process running into silos to be erected on port property. At least some port commissioners have been arguing in opposition.

Meanwhile, we’ve been advised the cement powder bags should not be stored outdoors because exposure to the elements can start causing bags to weaken after about a month.

— The plan for creating a bulk fertilizer business has received little public discussion. (This is not the ammonium nitrate fertilizer that blew up in Beirut and Oklahoma City. It is the urea variety, which is less dangerous, but is unheathy for people and the environment and very stinky.) The port operator has said that plan is a long-range goal. At the last meeting, he joked that some of the older people in the room “might not be here” when fertilizer starts arriving. He got a few chuckles, but not a big laugh.

Your comments should be directed via email to each commissioner, the port director and the port operator. Here are the names and email addresses:

Commissioners Danny Fullwood [email protected], Miriam Hill [email protected] , Mike Cole [email protected], Ray Nelson [email protected] and Justin Taylor [email protected].

Port Director David Kaufman, [email protected] and Port Operator Butch Gilbert, [email protected].

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Dave S.
Dave S. (@guest_67436)
6 months ago

Let’s put the environmental concerns front and center but let’s also not forget about tourism. Keep Fernandina clean and we’ll continue to attract the positive attention needed for progressive development of our community.

bob (@guest_67438)
6 months ago

One cannot fault the operator for attempting to create a higher revenue stream for this new purchase of theirs. It’s the purpose of such an account, to buy at one level of income and tweak the account in a way that creates more value for the new owners.

That being said, during the research and due diligence period, the operator became well aware of the local resistance to hazardous and polluting products at the port. None of this should come as a surprise to the operator, or anyone else for that matter.

So, let’s hope all parties understand the port has the potential to become a serious public relations disaster should the operator force a potential problem on the area.

From what I am hearing, this desire to import improper materials could lead to a greater outcry from the public across the county.

Hopefully, the operator will understand there is indeed a profit to be had here, without causing problems that far outweigh the profit realized for controversial decisions.

Anita McCarthy
Anita McCarthy (@guest_67439)
6 months ago

Hopefully the potential businesses with hazardous materials as their product will be voted down for the health and safety of the community and NOT have any more truck traffic on A1A!!

Joe Blanchard
Joe Blanchard(@jlblan2)
6 months ago

It may be time for the City of Fernandina Beach to realize that if the port is to continue then the least polluting freight are people. It is a heavily regulated industry by Federal Regulations and the Coast Guard. They are not allowed to dump anything over the side in any port and very little at sea. There is a rail system feeding the port so the people freight could, by in large, be moved out of the downtown area and be sides they are only here for a short time. The income, for the port, is substantial. Time to think out of the box.

Jim (@guest_67442)
6 months ago

Can you please propose something that doesn’t involve toxic materials?

DAVE LOTT(@dave-l)
6 months ago

Perhaps I overlooked it in the body of the article, but a link to the proposed Master Plan can be found here: https://www.portoffernandina.org/_files/ugd/e5fb15_b89d0103087c4584b88336e8a44967ec.pdf

Charles Loouk
Trusted Member
Charles Loouk(@charles-loouk)
6 months ago

IDK where else to put it, so I’m putting it in the top article: Are you going to have a feature on the car week? Lots of activity and shows happening this week! Would be cool to have a plan/map of everything going on (including some of the side-shows, especially the free ones). Thanks!

Bill Fold
Bill Fold(@bill-fold)
6 months ago

How many other ports, like for example Brunswick, Savannah, Jacksonville, have hazardous material coming and going and being stored onsite? What are the people who live nearby having to say about it?

Tammi Kosack
Tammi Kosack(@tammi-kosack)
6 months ago
Reply to  Bill Fold

The ports you mention which handle break bulk, nuisance, and hazardous materials are in a different category from our port in regards to people living nearby. The Port of Savannah is on 1345 acres, Jacksonville on 1500 acres and Brunswick on 1700 acres. The Port of Fernandina is on 23 acres. That is not a typo. 

The nearest neighbors to the earlier mentioned ports are miles away. Our port is less than 50 yards from historic residences and the Historic MainStreet community of businesses and restaurants, not to mention St. Michael’s Academy and church. What happens at our port impacts our entire island, as well as those traversing the bridge. It was positioned to support the mills, not to draw in commodities from other countries.

There are innovative business models out there which have been proven to be effective. Port of Brunswick has actually been named one of the 10 greenest ports in the US https://www.inboundlogistics.com/articles/10-greenest-ports-in-america/

Our port has the opportunity, under new leadership, to employ new business models that can benefit all.

O J Avila
O J Avila(@ojavila)
6 months ago
Reply to  Tammi Kosack

Ms Kozack

You are either woefully misinformed, sadly mistaken, or purposely obfuscating the truth. In Jacksonville Talleyrand Terminal and Keystone Terminal which handle Breakbulk’s and bill products respectively, are both next to residential neighborhoods. There is a tank farm on Talleyrand that handles chemicals, the Owens-Corning plant is also there on Talleyrand.
Blount Island Terminal is just a down the road in Hecksher Drive and their are homes right down the road.
The rail system also traverses those neighborhoods.
In Savannah, Garden City Terminal, which handles all sorts of cargo is in the middle of Garden City, a residential area. So is Ocean Terminal. Some of the other terminals are a little more separated but still near residential and other commercial, not just industrial areas and definitely not Mile’s away.
The Dixie Crystal sugar plant and terminal is right next to what could be considered a ver established neighborhood.
The famous Savannah Historic Waterfront on River Street is in between most of the terminals.
In Brunswick Mayors Point Terminal is right downtown next to a city park and a commercial area with mixed use. Marine Port Terminal is next to a residential area.
Charleston is much the same as Savannah, Tampa is a mixture but the cruise Terminal is right by Ybor City.

So no, we are not unique in having a port operation in or near a residential area.

DAVE LOTT(@dave-l)
6 months ago

The latest incident with the cement dust spillage demonstrates clearly that the terminal operator is putting revenue over safety to both the Port workers and the community. Obviously the Port did not have the proper equipment to handle the cement bags nor did it properly train the workers how to handle the material and what to do in the event of a spillage. Prevention is worth a ton of remediation.