Corps Signs Sabine-Neches Deepening Agreement
On July 27, the Sabine-Neches Navigation District, Port Arthur, Texas, signed a long-awaited project partnership agreement with the Corps of Engineers to begin deepening its channel from 40 to 48 feet. The work is scheduled to begin in late September.
In July 2011, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers signed the Chief’s Report on the proposed deepening, concluding a nearly 14-year assessment. The following November, the assistant secretary of the Army signed off on the report, approving transmission of the project to Congress for authorization and funding.
The Sabine-Neches Waterway Channel Improvement Project was federally authorized under the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014. The Corps has allocated $18 million in its FY2019 Work Plan to start the work.
On its website, the district said, “The next phase of the journey—the financing and construction process—is underway.” The total price tag is estimated at $1.2 billion; the project could take from 12 to 15 years to complete.
The project is expected to be split into three phases. One phase will focus on dredging the waterway’s bends. The other two phases will take four feet each from the bed of the waterway to make it a uniform 48 feet.
The navigation district will have to provide a 25 percent match to federal funding, but the Corps has said some in-kind work by the district can be counted toward the match.
Texas Rep. Dade Phelan created a grant pool in the recently enacted Senate Bill 7 for flood mitigation projects. Phelan told the Beaumont Enterprise that he wasn’t thinking of the deepening of the Sabine-Neches when he began writing the bill, but the navigation district became a partner in the process.
In a November press release, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said, “The Sabine-Neches waterway is a significant economic driver for Texas and the nation, and this project will generate thousands of jobs and billions in new economic activity.”
According to the district’s website, more than 100 million tons of cargo are carried on the Sabine-Neches Waterway each year. Industry-related sectors supported by the Sabine-Neches Waterway generate more than $32 billion in gross product, $18 billion in personal income, $3.4 billion in federal taxes, and more than 288,000 permanent jobs annually.
The waterway is the nation’s No. 1 bulk liquid cargo waterway, and is projected to become the largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the U.S. The surrounding area refines 13 percent of America’s daily fuel consumption and stores 55 percent of the nation’s strategic oil reserves. It is the home of the nation’s No. 1 commercial military outload port, and hosts refineries along the ship channel that produce 60 percent of nation’s commercial jet fuel.