Lavaca Bay

Josh Fay, 40, of Schulenburg, paddles his kayak back to shore after fishing in Lavaca Bay near Point Comfort in this 2019 file photo. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will speak at the Lavaca Bay Foundation's Thursday meeting about the placement of dredged material from the Matagorda Ship Channel, as part of the project that will widen and deepen the ship channel.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will present their final engineering design for the Matagorda Ship Channel Improvement Project at a Lavaca Bay Foundation meeting on Thursday.

The meeting will be at 6 p.m. in Calhoun County’s extension office auditorium, 186 Henry Barber Way in Port Lavaca. The public is invited to attend and provide input, according to a news release from the Lavaca Bay Foundation.

The Army Corps of Engineers Chief’s Report for the widening and deepening project was signed in 2019. Authorization for the project was included in the federal Water Resources Development Act that was signed into law at the end of last year.

The Calhoun Port Authority has discussed the project for several years, which will include dredging the port to deepen the waterway by 9 feet, widen the bay channel by 100 feet and the offshore channel by 300 feet.

The expansion will allow the port to accommodate larger ships, including Aframax and Suezmax vessels, which the port is too shallow and narrow to service in its current state.

At the Thursday meeting, Army Corps of Engineers will speak about placement of the dredging material from the project.

The primary environmental concern with the project is the possibility of mercury-contaminated dredge materials getting dug up during the dredging process, according to the final Corps’ Feasibility Report and Environmental Impact Statement for the project.

Alcoa, a now idled aluminum refinery, discharged inorganic mercury-laden wastewater into Lavaca Bay from 1965 to 1981. The Environmental Protection Agency declared the area as a superfund site decades later, in 1994.

While the port will be responsible for the investigation, removal and disposal of any contaminates discovered during required testing, Alcoa Corp. will accept any mercury-contaminated sediment found on port land in accordance with a 2002 settlement, according to the study.

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Kali Venable is an investigative and environmental reporter for the Victoria Advocate. She can be reached at 361-580-6558 or at kvenable@vicad.com.

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Investigative & Environmental Reporter

"I am a Houston native and 5th generation Texan, with a degree in journalism and minor in creative writing from the University of Texas at Austin. I care deeply about public interests and the community I serve.”

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