Business

Port Citrus: A Work Very Early in Its Progress

By: Jim Turner | Posted: February 20, 2012 3:55 AM
For all the talk of Florida’s 14 ports that are being prepped to capture the expansion of cargo through the Panama Canal and the overall growth in international trade, there is a possible 15th on the western horizon.

Officials in Citrus County are looking to capture some of the growing trade.

 Cross Florida Barge Canal

Cross Florida Barge Canal

Their eyes are not on creating a deepwater port that would be able to dock the massive Panamax ships.

Instead, they are looking to create a waterfront facility to accommodate smaller conveyor barges known as Trans Sea Lifters. The barges would bring cargo from the Panamax ships at a location offshore to a site that already has nearby CSX tracks that serve Progress Energy's power plants.

But the details are still very preliminary.

The Citrus County Port Authority has registered a website -- www.portcitrus.com -- but no information has been posted.

And a feasibility study is in the works to determine if such a port in 15-foot water along a stretch of the old Cross Florida Barge Canal near Inglis -- off the Withlacoochee River, which is a winter home for manatees -- would make sense.

Meanwhile, officials have struggled to bring their proposal to the public, according to the Citrus County Chronicle.

“While commissioners seem focused on creating a port that fits the Cross Florida Barge Canal, others say people are confused by the plan,” the Chronicle reported.

The desire for such a waterfront port has long been in county plans.

The County Commission has been deemed the port authority since 1984, when the area was envisioned as a marina and industrial park. However, the Citrus County Council, a consortium of civic clubs, homeowners' associations and environmental groups, has remained protective of the area’s waterfront.

Proposed Port Citrus

Proposed Port Citrus

Seven questions with Citrus County Public Information Officer Lindsay Ubinas:

SSN: Where does the port view itself in the footprint of Gov. Scott's dream to attract more growth from the Panama Canal expansion?

Ubinas: This port will be a niche port targeting barge activity and proposed to have intermodal connection with other ports and logistic centers.

SSN: What is the desired growth in the next five to 20 years for the port?

Ubinas: Negotiation of a land lease(s), partnering with private-sector port developers, installation of needed infrastructure leading to increased port activity. This in turn would create hundreds of local jobs for Citrus County.

SSN: What will it take to reach this growth?

Ubinas: Future commitment and funding to develop connectivity with other port facilities

SSN: What ports and entities are offering the most competition to attract this trade?

Ubinas: We do not view other Florida ports as competition, but as partners. Competition is with other state ports.

SSN: What is Florida doing to counter this competition?

Ubinas: Increased awareness to shippers who presently ship elsewhere. State support, trade missions, port upgrades and associations with other countries.

SSN: Who are the biggest champions of the port?

Ubinas: Florida Gov. Rick Scott, the Legislature and FSTED, Florida commerce secretary, Florida Ports Council.

SSN: What and who are some of the biggest hurdles facing the port's expansion?

Ubinas: No-growth advocates and the initial use of public funding to contract the feasibility study. Should the study come back and say Port Citrus is not viable, continuation of this project is doubtful.

Florida Ports Special Series


The first installment of this series: "Port Canaveral Bulking Cargo and Cruise Passengers" can be found here.

The second: "Port Backers Offer Vision to Make Florida the Global Hub" can be found here.


The third: "Gateway to the Caribbean Seeks Inland Expansion" can be found here.

The fourth: "Port of Miami is Digging for Growth" can be found here.

The fifth: "Key West: Port of Cruises" can be found here.


The sixth: "Port of Fernandina Looking Inland" can be found here.

The seventh: "Port of Pensacola Aims to Increase Cargo Handling" can be found here.

The eighth: "Port of Fort Pierce Aims to Expand Cargo Capacity" can be found here.

The ninth: "Port Manatee Growing in the Heart of Tampa Bay" can be found here.

(This is the tenth in a series with port directors in Florida.)



Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.


Comments (1)

FB Port Citrus
6:18PM FEB 22ND 2012
One of the biggest hurdles facing Port Citrus is the shallow area in the Gulf Channel at the entrance to the Cross Florida Barge Canal. Nautical Charts show the depth at only 1 fathom, (6 feet), at mean lower low water (lowest tide). A lengthy portion of the Gulf Channel is lined with shallows waters and spoil islands, islands created when part of the Cross-Florida Barge Canal was dredged. The few barges that currently use the CFBC lay in wait for the tide to rise to get in or out of the canal. The Nautical Chart of the area leaves in question where multiple barges could safely stack up to lay in wait for a rising tide.
Nautical Chart 11408 shows the area of the CFBC. It can be viewed on the NOAA website or the Port Citrus page on Facebook.

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