State leaders work for funding, improvements for waterways
The Port Arthur News
By Ashley Sanders
A Texas senator and a state congressman announced new plans for waterway improvements in Southeast Texas Tuesday.
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has provided $33.7 million for improvements to the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW).
The GIWW is a vital component of the Texas shipping industry, transporting more than 73 million tons of cargo annually, Hutchison said in a press releas issued Tuesday. This funding will provide for necessary maintenance and improvements to the waterway.
More than $33.2 million of the funding for the GIWW will provide for dredging of the waterway, total rehabilitation of the Colorado Lock Gate and the installation of additional mooring buoys. It is estimated that without dredging, a reduction in the depth of the waterway would have a multimillion dollar negative impact on the Texas economy.
While Hutchisons efforts Tuesday focused on the GTWW, Rep. Ted Poe announced that his amendment to fast track improvements to the Sabine Neches Waterway (SNWW) was included in the Water Resources Development Act Reauthorization (WRDA) marked up by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Currently, improvements to widen and deepen the SNWW cannot take place until the Army Corps of Engineers completes their study of the project. Poes amendment will require the Corps of Engineers to fast track the study, thereby initiating improvements to the SNWW.
This project was started by the Corps in 2000 with a completion date of 2004 and a cost of $6 million, Poe said in a press release issued Tuesday. It is now 2007, the project report is still not complete and the price tag has soared to $13 million. The inclusion of the Sabine Neches Waterway as a fast track project will finally get us the help we need to widen and deepen the waterway.
Poe said once the study is completed, appropriations for the actual work to widen and deepen the waterway can get underway.
I was encouraged by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Oberstars commitment to giving Sabine Neches Waterway projects priority in the next WRDA Bill, he said. We are one step closer to getting the work done.
The SNWW is home to the largest commercial military port in America based on tonnage, and it is the second largest in the world. Approximately 20 to 30 percent of America's commercial jet fuel is produced on the SNWW.
Securing additional funding to improve the channel has been a top priority since I was elected to Congress, Poe added. I will continue to educate other members of Congress on the importance of the SNWW to our countrys energy industry and national security.
The SNWW is the primary supplier to America's Bighill and Hackberry strategic oil reserves. An estimated 73 million tons of crude oil, 28 million tons of petroleum products, and 8.5 million tons of chemical cargo move through the SNWW's marine terminals annually.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' latest Waterborne Commerce data discloses approximately 74,794 total vessel and barge trips are made on the SNWW in a year. This traffic is expected to exceed the recommended maximum operating capacity in the next three years because of the $25 billion in new infrastructure invested along the SNWW to construct America's first new refinery since 1976, expand its three existing refineries, and construct three of America's eight new LNG plants.