Continued growth and development make their way to Port of Victoria

From outgoing oil shipments to ongoing construction and continuing development in between, one Victoria County Navigation District official said projects continue at the Port of Victoria.

Navigation district Commissioner Robert Loeb spoke Tuesday at the Victoria Economic Development Corp.'s weekly Victoria Partnership meeting, updating attendees about ongoing progress at the port.

Construction is underway for both a container dock and liquid cargo dock, he said, while plans are also in the works to locate fleeting, or what is essentially a large parking lot, near the waterway.

Loeb said the board hopes to create a partnership - it has a tentative agreement with a group from Louisiana - to create the approximately $3 million lot he said would ease the traffic jam currently felt by the growing port. Under the agreement, the company would spend its own money to construct the lot and would run it but would make a proposal to the port.

Lot construction is slated to begin within the next 60 days.

A proposed update to automate the port's lift bridge - a move about three years in the making - has also already gone to bid, Loeb said, noting that Union Pacific has a man in the bridge who checks for trains before activating the lift mechanism.

While it costs $300,000 per year to constantly man the bridge, switching to automation would be about a $1 million investment.

Loeb attributed progress to three basic ideals: partnership, planning and investing.

A partnership with the city of Victoria, for instance, allowed the port to purchase about 1,800 acres of land in 2007 to ready itself for growth but then sell the land's water rights to the city. Other partnerships and educational campaigns allowed bond issues to pass, further boosting the area's expansion.

The port always worked to prepare for future growth, he said, noting the first liquid dock was built in 2008 with zero customers prepared to use it. Today, it's full, and a second such dock is on its way in.

Dale Fowler, president of the economic development corporation, congratulated Loeb for the ongoing work and said the area serves as a helpful asset when it comes to marketing the community.

Luck has played its role in development, Loeb said, explaining luck is "preparedness meeting opportunity." The port prepared itself for impending growth, and - when things such as Eagle Ford Shale drilling took hold and then Caterpillar moved in - it was in a better place to meet companies' needs.

In fact, he said, July was the port's biggest month yet with 1.7 million barrels of oil shipped - about three barges per day.

"Pretty mind-boggling, if you think about it," he said. "So that's been really good for us."