Dredging the Calcasieu Shipping Channel

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Port of Lake Charles officials want to dredge the Calcasieu Shipping Channel, but there hasn't been enough funding to support channel maintenance.

The channel is supposed to be 400 feet wide and 40 feet deep, but that width has decreased to 175 feet.

Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain said 175 feet is almost the same width as the beams on large tanker vessels.

"Number one, it slows the ships down. Number two, if this encroaches much more, there will be no large tankers coming in," Strain said.

Port of Lake Charles is the eleventh largest port in the United States generating more than $3-billion in economic activity. Most of the money is collected from fees from ships passing through, and the money goes toward channel maintenance.

About $1.3 billion to $1.6 billion is collected each year from ships and $750-million to $800-million is used for maintenance purposes. The rest of the revenue goes to a general U.S. Treasury fund.

Port officials want this money to come back to the ports to support dredging, harbor and river maintenance in the channels.

"We're not asking for a tax increase. We're not asking for money," Strain said. "We're saying the money you're collecting for this purpose needs to be used on this purpose because it's real simple. When the ships don't come in, that money, that trust fund will go down."

The Realize America's Maritime Promise (RAMP) Act has been presented to U.S. Congress and action will be taken on the bill, whether passing or not, in October.

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