Influx of traffic expected for Calcasieu Ship Channel - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Influx of traffic expected for Calcasieu Ship Channel

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Since opening in 1941, the Calcasieu Ship Channel has been Southwest Louisiana's energy corridor to the Gulf of Mexico. With more industry coming, traffic is expected to dramatically increase over the next 10 years. A new study forecasts traffic to be increase by 50 percent in five years and 100 percent by 2023 -- with more than 2,000 vessels annually.

"So, quiet a large jump in traffic. The majority of this is the large LNG traffic. So that's kind of the major driver of increased traffic in the channel," said Matthew Von Schilling with the Ausenco Engineering Consulting Firm.

The study said while the channel can handle the influx, vessels will experience higher wait times.

"I think it shows the ship channel can handle the expected traffic... that's the big news," said Channing Hayden, Port of Lake Charles Director of Navigation.

The Port of Lake Charles, Army Corps. of Engineers, and other stakeholders are now exploring ways to minimize the delays. Some of the possible considerations: new restrictions, new anchorages, new passing lanes, and hiring more pilots.

"The channel itself is the artery that we need to have not plugged up, and once the artery plugs up, then we all have problems. So again, it's down to the channel and the maintenance of the channel and we're hoping we can keep that up to its full dimensions," said Bill Rase, Port of Lake Charles Executive Director.

In order to preserve the channel, Hayden said Congress needs to appropriate the necessary dredging funds.

"We have never been able to do that. Historically, this channel is grossly under-funded. Hopefully this study along with the other things we are doing will allow us to convince Congress to provide the 30-to-40-million dollars we need to dredge the channel properly," said Hayden.

While there are concerns, everyone admits these are all good problems to have.

"There will be some hiccups and some problems along the way, but I think with the leadership that is in this community... we will be able to handle that," said Rase.

The Port of Lake Charles expects to meet in late August/early September to begin discussion on changes, regulations and infrastructure and see how that could possibly impact wait times for vessels.

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