Possible bill to help fund Calcasieu Ship Channel

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Situation within Calcasieu Ship Channel is cause for concern here in Lake Charles.  Today state and local leaders are meeting to put their support behind a bill that would guarantee funding to maintenance and dredging.

The Army Corps of Engineers recommends the channel should be maintained at a 400 foot width and a 40 foot depth, but we're told that width has narrowed down to only 175 feet.

This morning we've been talking to officials about the problem.

"The port is constantly under funded by almost 50%. We need the money to fund the dredging and channel maintenance," Dave Trent, President of LC Pilots Association stated.

Neglecting the channel could not only raise the price of transportation, but also harms America's competiveness. Shippers estimate a $13 million increase in shipping with a one-foot reduction in the channel depth.

"Water is Americas super Highway," Mike Strain, Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner, said.

Passing the Realize America's Maritime Promise (RAMP) Act would guarantee that the funds collected by Harbor Maintenance Tax on imports would go straight to the dredging and maintenance of the channel.

Annually $1.3 to $1.6 billion is collected by the Harbor Maintenance Tax. Passing RAMP would work to grow the port and economy.

"Grow exports. Grow exports between 30-40%. Agriculture is largest part of our economy," Strain said.

There will be a meeting held on October 10, 2011 in DC to bring attention to the problems. Passing RAMP is vital to the economy of Lake Charles and Louisiana, as well as the entire Region.

And tonight we'll take a look at the problem from the skies and the ground.

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