Calcasieu Ship Channel receives 10 million in dredging funds - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Calcasieu Ship Channel receives $10 million in dredging funds

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LAKE CHARLES, LA -

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this week allocated $10 million to the Calcasieu Ship Channel for dredging a crucial portion of the channel to its full width. 

A portion of these additional funds will be combined with previously budgeted funds to dredge a key 3.5-mile stretch of channel — Miles 7 to 10.5 — to its full 400-foot width. The previous funding would have reduced the channel width there to only 250 feet—a narrowing that "would have extremely adverse economic consequences for channel users," said Bill Rase, Executive Director of the Port of Lake Charles.

"I can't understate the importance of keeping the channel open at full width," Rase said. "Southwest Louisiana's huge industrial complex relies on unrestricted passage through the ship channel. And the $58 billion in development projects announced for this area count on having a reliable channel to transport their goods—that's why they're coming here. A significant portion of the nation's energy resources moves up and down this channel every day. We also have to consider the safety issues that would be posed by a narrowed channel."

The $10 million allocation came from discretionary funds available to the Corps of Engineers in the FY14 Omnibus Budget Bill. It will be used for critical channel maintenance that includes dredging the 400-foot width of Miles 7 to 10.5. 

"We're pleased that the Corps saw fit to add $10 million to allow this important channel maintenance to take place," Rase said. "We're grateful to Senator Mary Landrieu, Senator David Vitter, Representative Charles Boustany, Representative Bill Cassidy and Representative Steve Scalise, who helped us communicate the importance of the Calcasieu Ship Channel."

A group representing the Calcasieu Ship Channel's interests went to Washington, D.C., in February to present justification for the additional funding. The group included representatives of channel users—BG/Trunkline LNG, Citgo, Magnolia LNG, Cameron LNG—as well as the Lake Charles Pilots, the Port of Lake Charles and State Senator Dan "Blade" Morrish. They requested that $11 million be added to the previously budgeted $16.24 million to accomplish the needed dredging.

This was the second time that a coalition of Calcasieu Ship Channel users went to the nation's capital to plead for needed funding for dredging. A 2012 appeal resulted in an allocation of $6.9 million. 

"We deal with a shortage of funds every year, and we have to work harder every year to get dollars for basic channel maintenance," said Channing Hayden, Director of Navigation and Security at the Port of Lake Charles. "The federal budget gets tighter, and the Corps of Engineers has a budget cap that limits what they can do to help us and other ports. The federal Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund would help, but much of that money has been unavailable for years because of the budget process."

"We know the critical importance of keeping the channel open; we've had to be proactive, creative and aggressive in communicating that importance to Washington," Hayden said. "The support of our Congressional delegation was a key factor in securing additional funding."

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