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Port of Lake Charles officials call for more federal funding for Calcasieu Ship Channel

Published: May. 9, 2022 at 9:53 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - One of Lake Charles’ largest economic components is calling for more federal dollars.

The Port of Lake Charles is asking the federal government to allocate more funding in the budget for projects they say are crucial for the port’s operations. Port officials say they need over $80 million for the Calcasieu Ship Channel to continue functioning properly.

The Port of Lake Charles generates an estimated $12 billion in economic activity between Calcasieu and Cameron parishes, equaling 67 percent of the local economy and supplying more than 42,000 direct and indirect jobs.

“The Calcasieu Ship Channel is the economic engine of Southwest Louisiana,” said Channing Hayden, director of navigation at the Port of Lake Charles.

The Calcasieu Ship Channel is essential to area industries and agriculture, and so is the needed federal support for the waterway’s operations and maintenance, according to port officials.

Annual dredging of the ship channel costs $28 million, which is allocated in the federal budget. But Hayden said that is not enough.

“We’ll be able to dredge the channel, and maintain the channel at its authorized depth and width,” Hayden said. “That means the ships can fully load when they come in or go out.”

In addition, Hayden said dredging disposal sites have reached their shelf life, and he said they need to be rebuilt.

“That is a different kind of funding, that is construction funding,” Hayden said. “We were zeroed out in the president’s budget for FY23 for construction. So, we are trying to get about $19.5 million in construction funds.”

As well as another $7.5 million for construction on a site in Cameron Parish. R.B. Smith, vice president of business and workforce development with the SWLA Economic Development Alliance, said they have joined port officials in their efforts.

“Our team has just returned from Washington D.C. talking to our congressional delegation, making them aware the budget does not have all the current funding we need in order to keep the ship channel maintained,” Smith said.

Smith said the ship channel generates $39 billion in gross domestic product and that more funding is crucial.

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