The U.S. House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, which lays out the way the United States improves and maintains vital ports and waterways. The bill authorizes construction of the proposed Sabine-Neches Waterway channel improvement project. (The waterway is a set of interlocking river channels and canals extending from the Gulf of Mexico to Port Arthur, Beaumont, and Orange, Texas).
The proposed project would deepen the Sabine-Neches Waterway from 40 feet to 48 feet to accommodate larger ships that will be traveling through the Panama Canal, allowing them to reach local ports and critical industry along the waterway.
“This project benefits the United States in many ways. It would nearly triple the economic impact of the waterway to the United States, generate thousands of permanent jobs in Texas and across the country and strengthen America’s energy security,” said Paul Beard, chairman of the Sabine-Neches Navigation District. “Deepening the waterway would enhance critical U.S. energy and military infrastructure and support the recent boom in refining and petrochemical activity in our region.”
The Sabine-Neches Waterway is the nation’s fourth largest waterway, transporting more than 100 million tons of cargo each year. It is the nation’s No. 1 crude oil import channel and home to the No. 1 commercial military outload port. Additionally, 55 percent of the nation’s strategic oil reserves are supported by the waterway. Refineries along the ship channel produce 60 percent of nation’s commercial jet fuel and the majority of U.S. military jet fuel.
The House WRRDA bill now moves to a conference with the Senate version of this legislation. Once Congress settles any differences between the House and Senate versions, they will vote to send their final bill to the president, where he is expected to sign it into public law. The Senate passed the bill in May of this year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers signed the Chief of Engineers Report for the project in July 2011, and the Assistant Secretary of the Army approved transmission of the project to Congress in November 2011.
The SNND, local sponsor of the waterway, has been working on environmental assessments and authorizations for the project for nearly 15 years.