Ship channel expansion on pace for 2019

Ship channel expansion on pace for 2019

Championing for the economic stability and growth of Southeast Texas, Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick has been granted support and a tentative $800 million in funding for hurricane levee improvements and deepening the Sabine-Neches Waterway – a feat that will not only create a projected thousands of new, permanent jobs in Jefferson County but also spur ancillary growth anticipated to nearly double the waterway’s impact on the nation over the life of the project. 

Now given presidential approval, community contributor support, and U.S Army Corps of Engineers priority, not much is left to impede progress on the ship channel deepening project analysts of the Perryman Group report would “create thousands of jobs, generate billions of dollars in economic impact, enhance trade infrastructure and position the U.S. to compete in the global marketplace.”

For the judge, it’s been a consistent, but noble, effort. For the county, it’s an unprecedented win.

“One of the things most attractive about Jefferson County,” for economic growth, Branick explained, is its ability to connect businesses, products, and people with the rest of the country – and the rest of the world. Jefferson County exports provide more than 12 percent of the nation’s gasoline, 75 percent of the military’s aviation fuel, and “virtually every American consumer product – baby diapers, tires, laundry detergent” – you name it.

“We are the third largest waterway by tonnage,” Branick noted just of the waterway exports. “I have a feeling we’re going to claim the No. 1 spot in the next couple of years.”

On the path to becoming the No. 1 waterway in the U.S., the local project has been subjected to bureaucratic pause offset by momentous development. The Sabine-Neches Navigation District, the local “non-federal sponsor” of the Sabine-Neches Waterway, has been working with the federal government to approve the project that would deepen the waterway from 40 feet to 48 feet with a 4-foot over- dredge. The waterway had its first “deepening and widening” in 1912, and has been improved three more times, with the last occurring in 1962. Deepening the channel would allow larger ships to reach local ports, enhance manageability of waterway traffic, take advantage of Panama Canal expansion, keep Southeast Texas competitive with other U.S. ports, maintain current jobs and create new jobs, increase tax revenue, stimulate economic development, and, of course, secure the area’s future as the nation’s largest military out-load port.

Previously given the blessing of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, where federal funding and official approval for the Jefferson County project would flow from, the U.S. Senate and House, and former President Barack Obama, this month, under a new elected administration, support was again renewed – and fast-tracked.

Tuesday, Oct. 23, at the signing ceremony approving America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump said the federal impediment to projects such as Jefferson County’s waterway deepening were a thing of the past...


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