Houston Ship Channel Project Complete

Monday, August 22, 2005
HOUSTON -- The Port of Houston Authority (PHA) last Thursday welcomed congressional leaders, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and more than 300 other invited guests to celebrate the completion of the widening and deepening project expected to further fuel the port's remarkable growth.

"This project has benefited from a great home-team," said PHA Chairman Jim Edmonds. "The support of our partners in Congress and the Legislature has been extraordinary to keep our port safe and our economy growing," he said.

Aboard the pilot vessel Bayou City a small group of officials cut a ribbon stretched 150 feet across the channel. Owned by the Houston Pilots Association, the vessel sailed from the port's Barbours Cut Terminal to the Fred Hartman Bridge (TX 146) and was overlooked by guests onboard a paddlewheeler, The Colonel.

"From streamlining the control of the Port of Houston Authority to providing funding for us to partner with the Corps of Engineers, local officials have worked hard for decades to make the project a reality today," said Tom Kornegay, Executive Director of the Port Authority.

Envisioned more than 30 years ago, the project reduces collision and oil-spill risks in the Houston Ship Channel by widening it to 530 feet (from 400 feet) and deepening the channel to 45 feet (from 40 feet). Greater capacity was also provided by the addition of barge lanes constructed on either side of the channel to a depth of 12 feet to allow slower barge traffic to navigate the channel.

In addition to enhancing safety and increasing capacity, the deepening and widening project also helps protect water and air quality. By reusing materials from Galveston Bay in Galveston Bay, the Port of Houston Authority and the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers have taken a precedent-setting role in improving water and air quality.

"Projects like Redfish Island, Goat Island and Evia Island are all made possible through the re-use of the dredged material," said Chairman Edmonds. "The port authority takes seriously its stewardship of the environment and its responsiveness to the community."

The creation of more than 4,250 acres of marshland using dredged materials from the channel is managed under a plan created by the Beneficial Uses Group (BUG), a coalition of local, state, and federal government agencies formed in 1990. The largest wetland creation effort of its kind in the nation, the BUG Plan is also one of the most successful. Members of the BUG include Port of Houston Authority, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Marine Fisheries Service, Texas General Land Office, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service.

While on-going channel maintenance is financed entirely by the federal government, channel deepening projects are cost-shared between local sponsors and the federal government. The total federal and non-federal cost of this project is $705.23 million. The Port of Houston Authority, as the local sponsor, is contributing its share of the non-federal cost from bonds approved by Harris County voters in 1989 by a margin of nearly two to one.

The Port of Houston Authority owns and operates the public facilities located along the Port of Houston, the 25-long complex of diversified public and private facilities designed for handling general cargo, containers, grain and other dry bulk materials, project and heavy lift cargo, and other types of cargo. Each year, more than 6,600 vessels call at the port, which ranks first in the U.S. in foreign waterborne tonnage, second in overall total tonnage, and sixth largest in the world. The Port Authority plays a vital role in ensuring navigational safety along the Houston Ship Channel, which has been instrumental in Houston's development as a center of international trade. The Barbours Cut Container Terminal and Central Maintenance Facility are the first of any U.S. port facilities to develop and implement an innovative Environmental Management System that meets the rigorous standards of ISO 14001. Additionally, the port is an approved delivery point for Coffee "C" futures contracts traded on the New York Board of Trade's Coffee, Sugar & Cocoa Exchange.

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