Corps of Engineers to receive $16.3 million for general construction, $17.2 million for operations and maintenance.
Through strong support of the Houston congressional delegation, the Port of Houston Authority (PHA), as the local government sponsor of the Houston-Galveston Navigational Ship Channel, received notice from Washington today that the Senate Appropriations Committee appropriated a total of $33.5 million in funding for the Houston Ship Channel. The US Army Corps of Engineers’ Galveston District will receive $16.3 million for general construction and $17.2 million for operations and maintenance.
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, an appropriator on the Energy and Water Development Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, was key to getting the funding and increase above the President’s budget.
“The announcement of this funding is great news not only for the Port of Houston Authority but the entire Houston region,” stated Jim Edmonds, PHA Chairman. “Over the past 93 years, the Houston Ship Channel has become one of the nation’s busiest waterways, providing a powerful regional and national economic engine, exquisite environmental resource, and vital trade link between the world and Houston. The port authority is fortunate to have great leadership in Congress, both in the Senate with Kay Bailey Hutchison, John Cornyn and our Texas delegation in the House.”
Begun in 1998, the Houston Ship Channel deepening and widening project was completed in 2005. The project widened the channel from 400 feet to 530 feet and deepened the channel from 40 feet to 45 feet from the sea buoy to the Beltway 8 bridge. Initiated more than 30 years ago, the project reduces collision and oil-spill risks in the channel. Greater capacity was also provided by the addition of barge lanes constructed on either side of the channel to a depth of 12 feet to allow slower barge traffic to navigate the channel.
In addition to enhancing safety and increasing capacity, the HSC deepening and widening project also helps protect water and air quality. By reusing materials dredged from the channel in Galveston Bay, the PHA and the corps of engineers have taken a precedent-setting role in improving water and air quality.
In addition to the $87 million annual economic impact of the project, it is also one of the most significant environmental projects undertaken in the United States. The dredge material from the project over the next 50 years will be used to build 4,250 acres of tidal marsh and wetlands in Galveston Bay, rebuild subsided historical islands, and create oyster reefs and other natural enhancements.
The creation of marshland using dredged materials from the channel is managed under a plan created by the Beneficial Uses Group (BUG), a coalition of local, state, and federal government agencies formed in 1990. The largest wetland creation effort of its kind in the nation, the BUG plan is also one of the most successful. Members of the BUG include representatives of the PHA, corps of engineers, National Marine Fisheries Service, Texas General Land Office, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, US Environmental Protection Agency, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and US Natural Resources Conservation Service.
While ongoing channel maintenance is financed entirely by the federal government, channel deepening projects are cost-shared between local sponsors and the federal government. The total federal and non-federal cost of this project if $639 million. The PHA, as the local sponsor, is contributing its share of the non-federal cost from bonds approved by Harris County voters in 1989 by a margin of nearly two to one.