I wanted to put my comments on the Canaveral Port Authority Master Plan together as there wasn’t enough room on the comment cards. For ease of dissemination, I am breaking the comments down based on the categories provided on the official comment cards.
In general, I believe that the plan is over-reaching and far to aggressive. Plans call for $2.6B in improvements over the next 30 years. Although the commission has steadfastly denied an attempt to levy the ad valorem tax, this plan is based on pie-in-the-sky projections that I believe are unrealistic for several reasons:
- Bermello/Ajimel’s projections see an increase in petroleum as cargo over the next 30 years, when anecdotal information indicates that the nation will be weaning itself off of fossil fuels during that time period.
- Container cargo looks to average more than 600K teus per year. Nothing so far indicates that cargo at the Port will ever reach this level, and if it does, based on NASA’s own restrictions, a maximum of 64,200 teus per year would be able to leave the port via rail. This means an enormous increase in truck traffic along the SR 528 corridor resulting in public safety issues as well as wear-and-rear on an already beleaguered highway system.
- The Master Plan takes into account an overall cost of $2.6m over the next 30 years. Real -dollar costs are likely to far exceed that by the time of total completion, further stretching Port finances.
- While significantly increasing passenger traffic, as well as the number of people in the port with the addition of five new restaurants and a new conference center, the strategic plan does not seem to take into account needs for improved/expanded infrastructure with regards to water and wastewater.
- With the fees collected by B/A, it would have been nice had their presentation actually worked.
- Despite the CPA’s supposed commitment to transparency, a significant portion of the community was upset with the Port’s steadfast resistance to releasing the working copy of the Strategic Master Plan until the final public meeting held on October 16. Port staff repeatedly told Commissioner Harvey that the plan would not be released, until I filed a Freedom of Information Act with the CPA. At that point, the plan was released to the public via a GoogleDocs file that wouldn’t allow citizens to print or save the working product. In addition, the released version did not include the information on the surplus parcels on SR 528. This was a document that was produced with public dollars for a public entity and had already been discussed with the public. There was no reason for these types of obstruction of public information and further undermine the pubic’s distrust in the CPA which will likely be reflected at the polls in 2018.
- The CPA seems to be in a rush to push this plan through after only four opportunities for public input. I believe that the Port should hold at least one more meeting after the communitiy's concerns are addressed by B/A; this should preferably be an evening meeting, allowing concerned residents of the five Port Districts to participate without having to take time off from work.
- What happened to the proposed Brevard Zoo aquarium facility? This was one of the most promising new proposals at Port Canaveral, and it appears to have been completely overlooked at best or — at worst — omitted.
- Despite public objection, the CPA continues to push container cargo despite recent failures and no concrete financial proof that containerized cargo is financially justified.
- As mentioned, despite a move towards clean, sustainable energy, B/A projects increases in petroleum cargo over the next 30 years. This is a very risky proposal to base a $2.6B expansion on.
- Breakbulk, which has been a mainstay of cargo for Port Canaveral, continues to appear to be the only reliable source of income that appears to be supported. One issue that needs to be addressed is that cargo operators that cause an undue financial burden on Port Facilities (the ongoing work on damage caused by Morton Salt) should be addressed and passed on to the vendor, not the CPA.
- This plan address building a new facility for AutoPort on the north side, but doesn’t address what will be done with the existing facility on the south side of the Port.
- The plan also includes an LNG component on the north side. Although cruise and cargo lines are moving towards LNG as a clean alternative fuel, this part of the expansion leads to a list of questions yet to be addressed:
- How do the Port’s military neighbors feel about an LNG facility that could be within the blast arc of operations in the Middle and Trident basins?
- What would the blast arc of this facility be, and how would it affect the SpacePort and current tank farm facilities?
- How will LNG make its way to this facility? Via ship or via tanker truck? Do residents of the five Port Districts really want LNG in our community?
- Will there be any issues with LNG in such close proximity to the existing tank farm?
- What about the proximity of LNG to the proposed SpacePort facilities?
- What are the dangers to the surrounding community from LNG (specifically Cape Canaveral and unincorporated Brevard County.)?
- During the presentation, the statement was made that the CPA was committed to not-expanding its footprint outside of the Port (into the Northern Banana River) without first showing financial need. There are several problems with this:
- First, this doesn’t assure the community and residents of the five Port Districts that the Port won’t expand into the Northern Banana River, and estuary of national significance and the world’s largest federally managed sanctuary for the endangered West Indian Manatee and home to countless other endangered or protected species. In a show of good faith, the CPA should cede its deeds for submerged wetlands to a non-profit conservation organization such as the Sierra Club, Audubon or Save the Manatee Club.
- This plan also fails to address plans to expand outside the port’s physical footprint, i.e. the embattled Logistics Center in Titusville or former Port property that was sold to Walmart in a sweetheart deal. The CPA has no business expanding into the community and competing with private interests as a public entity.
- This plan includes a contingency for a railhead in the North Cargo area. This should be removed, as the community opposes rail through the lagoon, and there has been no ruling yet as to whether rail through CCAFS and NASA is doable. With this railhead in the plan, if the National Surface Transportation Board prefers an alignment through the lagoon, this would give the Port to build the rail against Port District residents wishes.
- The anticipated costs for rail through CCAFS or the Northern Banana River aren’t included in this plan and therefore any reference to rail should be removed. If the NSTB approves a CCAFS alignment, this could be amended to the plan at a future point, after discussion with the community.
- Port Canaveral is traditionally in the top three cruise ship ports in the world, battling with Miami for the top spot. This plan includes large dollar renovations ($150m for CT3 as well as additional funding for others.) Given that ports like Miami are replacing cargo berths with state of the art facilities paid for by the cruise lines, why is Port Canaveral paying?
- The cruise projections should be revised, as they don’t appear to take into account a downturn in the economy or the effects of a possible terror attack on a cruise line. Such an attack anywhere in the world could cause an unprecedented decline in cruise passengers, particularly if it were to impact marquis brand like Disney.
- World-class cruise facilities appear to be in direct conflict with the other industrial uses (container cargo, breakbulk cargo, potentially volatile LNG storage) aren’t conducive to expanding and focusing on the cruise industry.
- Current plans for CT3 only allow for 150 between the bow of a cruise ship berthed at the existing easternmost bollard, posing a threat at least part-time due to USCG regulations. As a show of good will to recreational boaters and anglers, the CPA should not seek a waiver of the USCG’s required 100-yard (200 foot) safety envelope; rather, the CPA should redesign the new CT3 facility to address the current USCG regulations. The CPA should also confirm that there will be no net loss of parking space or foot print of Jetty Park due to this renovation project.
- The newly proposed Cove inner harbor appears to not be feasible based on the width of the opening. A small opening, leading to a larger inner harbor will lead to a restriction of flow contributing to declining or stagnant water in the area, creating an unpleasant (and possibily unhealthy) environment for the public.
- The addition of five new restaurants appears to be tone-deaf to longtime Port tenants like Grilles, FishLips, Rusty’s Baja’s and Milliken’s. In addition to creating competition, the port is putting a further hardship on current F&B tenants by changing and restricting current traffic problems. Current tenants also have concerns about parking, as this development will result in a loss of parking and/or moving customers to parking areas that are not within a reasonable distance of existing eateries.
- Workboats such as the tug fleet at Port Canaveral are not conducive with a recreational/public area due to emissions and the heavy industrial nature of the vessels. They should be restricted to the northside of the port with other heavy industrial commercial vessels.
- This development calls for building a new meeting center attached to the financially woeful Exploration Tower. ET is a classic example of the CPA’s flawed thinking that “if you build it, they will come.” You built it, and nobody came. There are several challenges that need to be explored prior to committing public financial resources to another white elephant:
- Most high-tech companies that would be a potential client for such a center are using decentralized, internet based meeting practices to collaborate remotely.
- Technology in these types of centers changes quickly; what is state-of-the-art today is outdated next year.
- This is a potential conflict to current and future facilities throughout the community.
- Parking appears to be insufficient based on the diagrams for 150 participants; the nearest available parking would be the proposed intermodal facility, likely a long walk for people participating in events at the facility.
- Who will be responsible for operating the proposed food and beverage facilities? If this is to be Port-run, this again appears to put the CPA in conflict with current tenants or possible operators from with in the community; again, an example of a business the CPA really shouldn’t be in.
Although I am in favor of aerospace usage at the Port, there are several concerns:
- The unloading of boosters by SpaceX and soon Blue Origin, are a huge draw for tourists at waterfront eateries and for cruise passengers. By relegating them to an area back by the USCG station, the Port is neutralizing this positive tourism bump. A better choice would be the current area in the failed container cargo area or in the area where a new AutoPort facility is proposed. This would provide optimum viewing for residents of the five Port Districts, their families and guests and other portions of the tourism market.
- Although this is a non-traditional Port use, I am somewhat concerned that using our finite resources for this, could help push for expansion into the Northern Banana River.
- There is concern in the community with regards to what is happening at the current SpaceX facility and what plans are for future SpacePort buildings; General Dynamics and other companies proposed payload processing facilities in the past that presented considerable risks to the surrounding communities; after public outcry, those plans were scrapped and moved on to federal property at CCAFS. So far, questions directed to Port staff about activities and possible chemicals being used there have been answered “We have no idea.” The CPA needs to be more vigilant in this area.
- Traditional recreational access to Port Canaveral has been reduced by 90% over the last 30 years. In addition to losing recreational fishing access on the North and South sides, anglers and boaters have lost access to the West Turning Basin whenever a cruise ship is at berth.
- The argument that no other Florida port offers recreational opportunities doesn’t really hold water. Just because other people don’t, and you’ve restricted our access by over 90%, don’t tell us you are doing us a favor.
- With the loss of Freddy Patrick Park (named after a fallen law enforcement officer) and its boat ramps, the CPA has made it clear that they continue to marginalize recreational users into the easternmost (Jetty Park) and westernmost (Rodney Ketcham Park) boundaries of Port Canaveral.
- Since residents of the five Port Districts are unwilling cosigners for Port Canaveral’s projects (guaranteed by the ability to levy ad valorem taxes in the case of failure), many in the community would like to see the Port implement complimentary admission to Exploration Tower and Jetty Park. This would go a long way in extending an olive branch to the people that own Port Canaveral.
- As stated in the charter, the CPA will be required to provide an equivalent footprint for commercial fishing operations at Port Canaveral. The area dedicated to this in the Cove Development doesn’t appear adequate. At the very least, 650 feet of linear wharfage will need to be set aside; however, the current commercial fishing fleet docks boats two and three deep along the seawall. This not only presents a safety hazard for commercial fisherman, but given the conceptualized size of the inner harbor, such a practice could possibly restrict access to recreational and other vessels.
- There are currently two seafood markets in existence at Port Canaveral (Wild Ocean and Seafood Atlantic); however, the Port plan only suggests one market in the commercial fishing area of the Cove.
- The net and gear yard appears to be disproportionate. Currently, little if any area for this exists, and it wouldn’t appear conducive for the mixed use concept in this area.