Deepening channel good for business, bad for fish (copy)

A ship docks at the Calhoun Port Authority in 2016.

The Crossroads stands to gain a piece of the $360 million Congress recently allocated toward improving shipping in areas affected by natural disasters.

A portion will go toward helping the Army Corps of Engineers hire contractors to work on clearing sediment that has accumulated in both the Victoria Barge Canal and the Matagorda Ship Channel.

Overall, the contractors will keep the canal 14 feet deep and 125 feet wide and the ship channel 38 feet deep and 200 feet wide.

Lt. Col. Mark Williford said the Port of Victoria and the Calhoun Port Authority, previously known as the Port of Port Lavaca-Point Comfort, will benefit.

The Port of Victoria has pulled ahead of the Calhoun Port Authority in terms of tonnage of product moving through it.

In 2016, it had 5.1 million tons, while the Calhoun Port Authority had 4.9. They are ranked 75th and 76th in the nation, respectively.

Williford said the increase for the Port of Victoria could be attributed to the Eagle Ford Shale formation and Caterpillar coming to Victoria.

While “we lost about 5 million tons when Alcoa idled,” Calhoun Port Authority Executive Director Charles Hausmann said, Formosa’s expansion should make up for some of that.

Hausmann explained after Harvey, ships coming to the Calhoun Port Authority could not be loaded down with as much product.

“This will get us back to our optimized depth. Right now, we are only at minus 33 feet,” he said.

Hausmann said it’s still his goal to dredge the Matagorda Ship Channel to a depth of about 47 feet, and the Calhoun Port Authority and the Corps will study the feasibility of that for another 13 months.

Meanwhile, Williford said RLB Contracting Inc., of Port Lavaca, which had been dredging part of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and depositing the sediment on King Fisher Beach in Port O’Connor when it hit a natural gas pipeline in Matagorda Bay on April 17, hasn’t resumed its work or given the agency any idea when it can resume.

The $380 million comes from the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, which Congress passed Feb. 9.

There are 32 projects across 12 states. Texas has nine projects.

Brent Howard, of the Corps, said the agency hasn’t determined how much it will spend on the Crossroads’ projects, only that they will receive some of that funding.

Jessica Priest reports on the environment and Calhoun County for the Victoria Advocate. She may be reached at jpriest@vicad.com or 361-580-6521.

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Former Environment/Investigations Reporter

Jessica Priest worked for the Victoria Advocate from August 2012-September 2019, first as the courts reporter and then as the environment/investigations reporter. Read her work now at www.jessicapriest.me.

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