Vicksburg Port Eyes Expansion On Mississippi
It’s been more than 50 years since the Port of Vicksburg was founded on the Yazoo River Diversion Canal, north of where the Yazoo River meets the Mississippi River in Warren County, Miss.
The venture has proven a significant anchor for the region, with the port and its tenants accounting for a pre-pandemic workforce of more than 4,000 employees across 21 industries. Tenants include Ergon and Ergon Refining, Magnolia Marine, Gavilon, Citco, Falco Chemical, Anderson Tully, DTE Petcoke, Waring Oil, MS Lime Company, Smith Towing Company, Neill Gas and CAM2 International. Besides its tenants, Watco Companies LLC serves as the terminal operator for the public terminal, and both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard also maintain bases of operation within the port’s slackwater harbor.
But while the port’s existing footprint remains vibrant, officials with the Warren County Port Commission have their eye on the future, and a second site for the Port of Vicksburg.
Warren County Port Commission Executive Director Pablo Diaz said the port’s market analysis, conducted between 2018 and 2019, indicated the port had room to grow, with “a number of opportunities in the market.”
Since then, the port has gone through a site benchmarking analysis to look at potential locations in the area.
“We are at the end of that, so we have a pretty good idea of what part of Warren County the development would happen,” Diaz said.
Diaz pointed specifically to property near or adjacent to Entergy’s Baxter Wilson Power Plant, located on the left descending bank of the Mississippi River just south of the city of Vicksburg. Strengths of that location include easy access to electricity from the power plant and Mississippi River frontage.
Diaz said any future development will have multimodal connections, with access to the river, the Kansas City Southern railroad and the interstate system. Those connections, plus the fact that the port will be able to employ the latest technologies and tools of the industry, will give any new development important efficiencies and logistical advantages, he said.
Diaz said he expects to finish the site benchmarking soon and conduct an environmental analysis over the next four to five months. He foresees a multiphase construction timeline, with Phase 1 coming online over the next four to five years.
“We do have the full support of the state,” Diaz said. “Depending on the legislation coming out of Washington, a lot of inland ports and other ports may have opportunity to develop their infrastructure, so we hope that could accelerate the timetable.”
Diaz, who has led the Warren County Port Commission for four years, said it’s exciting to be at the front end of a project that will shape Vicksburg and surrounding communities for years to come, much like the city’s original port development did.
“That is what this project is all about,” he said. “We won’t necessarily see the benefit immediately, but in the next 15, 20 or 25 years, you’ll see this whole development of industrial tenants that can carry this community into the future with adequate revenues for the county and city.”
And it’s a project that doesn’t only benefit the local community, Diaz said.
“Barge and river transportation are the cheapest ways to move cargo and the most environmentally friendly ways to move cargo,” he said. “As we look to potential opportunities for an infrastructure bill from Washington, we hope and pray we’ll have a bipartisan, well-thought-out infrastructure bill that will allow our communities to build infrastructure so we can continue to take advantage of the river for the benefit of families up and down the river.
“To us, this is an exciting time, and this is an exciting investment,” Diaz added. “If we can have infrastructure investment in our country and our communities, I think it would trigger an economic renaissance that is long overdue.”