Port Citrus talk: Sink or stay afloat?

Port Citrus backers envisioned development of a port near a key cut in the Cross Florida Barge Canal. A study in 2015 said the canal was too shallow, but recommended the Duke Energy site. Commissioners now say they'll ask Duke to consider hosting the port.

Citrus County commissioners appear ready to revive Port Citrus if Duke Energy will be a partner.

Commissioners on Monday said with Duke pushing up the nuclear plant’s decommissioning and retiring two coal plants, the company may have available use of its intake canal for a port.

“If they’re willing to do that, my goodness, that’s a whole new can of worms to take a look at,” Commissioner Ron Kitchen Jr. said.

Commissioners directed board Chairman Jeff Kinnard to reach out to Duke to see if that’s a possibility.

The company is willing to listen, but the process to provide land and the canal for a port is lengthy, complicated and holds no guarantee of success, Duke spokeswoman Heather Danenhower said Tuesday.

“It’s not as simple as you would think,” she said.

Ron Kitchen Jr.

Citrus County Commissioner Ron Kitchen Jr. 

Commissioners were discussing whether to send a letter to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission supporting the city of Crystal River’s request for a local public hearing on the economic fallout of Duke’s decision to shutter the nuclear power plant.

Commissioner Scott Carnahan said he thinks Duke would discuss making its canal available for Port Citrus.

“It looks to me we might have an opportunity coming,” he said.

The county in 2011 received the Port Citrus designation from the state. A consultant’s study said that the Cross Florida Barge Canal doesn’t have the depth to support a port, but that the Duke Energy Complex canal does. At the time, Duke said it wasn’t interested.

Since then, the company closed the nuclear plant and, in December, took two of four coal plants offline. Duke late last year began operation of the combined cycle natural gas plant.

The county commission in 2015 voted 3-2 to remove the Port Citrus designation, but a year later the board voted to keep it. Carnahan was the swing vote, saying he wanted no funds spent on the port but keeping the designation was a good idea.

Scott Carnahan mug

County Commissioner Scott Carnahan.

“Keeping Port Citrus doesn’t hurt us one thing,” he said at the time.

When Duke took the nuclear plant offline in 2013, it planned to decommission the plant by 2074. The company announced in May it would ask the NRC to start the decommissioning processing in 2020 and complete it in 2027.

Dismantling the two coal-fired plants should be completed in 2023, Danenhower said.

Danenhower said Duke officials watched Monday’s county commission meeting.

“Officials may be thinking this work will be done in 2027,” she said. “I can certainly understand why they might be thinking that. It’s not that simple.”

She said the property is under NRC regulation and any deviation of its use would need NRC approval. Plus, she said, even with decommissioning there will still be used nuclear fuel assemblies on-site in a dry cask storage facility that cannot be moved until the Department of Energy licenses a spent fuel receiving facility.

Commissioners decided not to join Crystal River in asking for the NRC hearing. Kinnard said Duke is a strong corporate citizen and he didn’t want to subject the company to a “public flogging.”

Carnahan, who acknowledged Tuesday he didn’t know if the Port Citrus idea would gain traction with Duke or not, said he saw no reason to ask for the NRC meeting.

He said: “I don’t want to see us poke the bear.”

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(6) comments

GaryM

It is sad but typical for some members of our commission to look at an opportunity and immediately say it is a can of worms. The natural gas pipeline is right there. What would it take to manufacture LNG, put it on a smaller LNG barge for transport to Port Tampa where it can be put on a larger ship (bunker barge) headed for the Caribbean. LNG is probably the major fuel source in the Caribbean. It would also keep the trucks off the road. http://www.professionalmariner.com/December-January-2019/New-LNG-bunker-barge-signals-continuing-shift-to-alternative-fuels/

LDouglas

Guess they figured it's a good time to ask Duke for a favor since they just did one for them. Anyway, it sounds like the current commissioners are saying to heck with keeping Citrus County a beautiful place to live and retire. Industrial all the way. They can't turn us into one huge city without industrial jobs. Cynical sarcasm aside, I have an idea- if Duke owes us a favor, (and needs more customers) how about getting them to open up some more of their land to increase fish hatcheries, along with a boat or at the very least a kayak ramp. Believe it or not, good fishing, and boating or kayaking on clean water attracts people. Some will even create their own jobs in order to live here- while others will just want to live and spend their pensions.

CitrusCo Citizen

Agree, agree, agree. And, heaven forbid what if Duke began to develop SOLAR and wind power, like the rest of the 49 states. After all we are the SUNSHINE STATE (sarcasm intended). Explosive, dangerous and polluting methane LNG will come and go, but the destruction of the Nature Coast coastline and its marine life and the creation of a Dead Zone is permanent.

Miuke Nelson

Port Citrus has never been a good idea from and environmental perspective. Same thing applies whether it's the Duke site or the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway. It's a park even if you call it a barge canal. The Port of Tampa Channel is 43 feet deep. Miami is going to 50 feet. The existing Duke canal is only 20 feet deep. Dredging to those depths off our coast will wipe out some of the most productive grass beds in the State of Florida.

CitrusCo Citizen

Connect the dots and follow the money. 1. Sabal fracked methane nature gas pipeline cuts down through northcentral Florida. 2. Compressor station built in Dunnellon in which gas is compressed into highly explosive liquid natural gas (LNG). 3. Super highway to be built from Suncoast Parkway along 19 and up to Ga. state line. 4. It was learned that much of the land along the proposed route of the highway--thousands ofacres --was purchased by the richest man in Florida who donates to certain legislators, including Galvano, and who quickly passed bills for super highway (tollroad to nowhere). The plan is for super ports to be improved or built at Port Jacksonville on the east coast and Port Tampa and Port citrus onthe west coast. 5. Container tanks to hold LNG are being built on Duke property. 6. The plan is for the LNG will be trucked from the compressor stations to Port Citrus, Port Tampa and Port Jacksonville, and then and then shipped off to supply foreign countries in Central andSouth America and further away like China, and Europe. Florida is being bulldozed, covered in gas pipelines, cemented over with highways and it's beautiful coasts will be dug up to create a deepwater port in the Barge Canal, so that the rich fossil fuel tycoons can get even richer, obscenely rich. Florida and especially the Nature Coast isjust be used, wrecked and demolished. Floridans in Citrus County will get nothing.

CitrusCo Citizen

Dredging the seagrass beds will devastate the manatee population since that is a main food supply for most of manatees along the upper west coast of Florida. It will also destroy shellfish populations such as scallops, stone crabs as well as sea turtles who also feed on the sea grass. Small fry of most fish species that flourish along the coastlines in that area as well as waterfowl such as herons, roseate spoonbills, pelicans, etc. will be depleted. Dredging and destroying the west coast marine life just to create a deepwater Port Citrus will put the final nails in the coffin for fish and wildlife along Florida's Gulf Coast. There's already a huge dead zone spreading along the coastlines of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida's Panhandle and if this happens it will continue to join the growing dead zones caused by the toxic algaes (blue-green algae exacerbated by red tide) of Lake Okeechobee. Fossil fuel will win and Florida will lose. Is that what we want?

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