Dredging & Marine Construction

Texas Ship Channel Projects Receive Supplemental Corps Funding

More funding is on the way for several ship-channel improvement projects in Texas, including the Brazos Island Harbor, the Corpus Christi Ship Channel, the Galveston Harbor and Channel and the Houston Ship Channel, the Galveston Engineer District reports.

The Biden administration announced March 29 that it will invest more than $2.7 billion in funding to 300 Corps of Engineers projects throughout the country focused on strengthening ports and waterways in addition to other funding already received by the ports for projects (see Washington Waves, April 4). The administration has invested a total of nearly $17 billion in new funding and other supplemental appropriations in fiscal year 2022 and 2023 for more than 800 projects across 55 states and territories.

Brazos Island Harbor

Under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) appropriations law, the Brazos Island Harbor Project in the Port of Brownsville will receive $68 million through the Corps toward executing the Channel Improvement Project. The project was identified as part of the IIJA to strengthen port and waterway supply chains and climate resilience.

The $68 million investment will deepen the Brazos Island Harbor ship channel at the Port of Brownsville to enable increased cargo movements, reduce transit times and improve operational safety.

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“Completing the Brazos Island Harbor deep draft improvement project is a high priority for both the Rio Grande valley and the state of Texas as a whole,” according to a joint press release issued by Reps. Filemon Vela Jr. and Vicente Gonzalez (both D-Texas, although Vela has subsequently retired from Congress to work at a law firm). “Providing sufficient funds for the completion of this project will improve and sustain the commercial and industrial sectors in the southeastern corridor of the area, promoting collaborative regional innovation and global competitiveness that will lead to economic growth. These two water infrastructure projects will directly impact south Texas and will allow for long-overdue improvements to our country’s infrastructure.”

The Port of Brownsville is the only deepwater port located on the United States-Mexico border and has multiple transportation avenues at its disposal, including three Class 1 rail service providers, the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and most major U.S. and Mexican truck lines.

Corpus Christi Ship Channel

Proposed in the president’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget is $157.3 million to complete the fourth and final phase of the Corpus Christi Ship Channel Improvement Project (CCCIP). The project, which began in 2019, will increase the channel depth from 47 feet to 54 feet and widen the channel from 400 feet to 530 feet. The CCCIP will also add two barge lanes, which will allow slow-moving barge traffic to be separated from blue-water ship traffic. The funding ensures the final phase of the project can be completed in 2025.

The FY 23 president’s budget also proposed allocating $6.5 million for operations and maintenance funding for the Corpus Christi Ship Channel.

The Port of Corpus Christi Authority is ranked as the No. 3 port in the nation with approximately 151 million tons of maritime cargo moved in 2020. Strategically located on the western Gulf of Mexico with a 36-mile—and soon to be 54-feet-deep—channel, the Port of Corpus Christi Authority is a major gateway to international and domestic maritime commerce.

“Investing in the Corpus Christi Ship Channel Improvement Project is an investment into our national security, and that of our allies,” said Rep. Michael Cloud (R-Texas), whose district includes the channel. “As the nation’s leading energy port, this project will allow for increased LNG [liquefied natural gas] exports to Europe, allowing them to be less reliant on Russia.” Cloud said the expansion of the port has been his top priority, “and I am excited to see that the completion is in sight,” he said.

Galveston Harbor And Channel

Also included in the IIJA is the Galveston Harbor Channel Extension project, which will receive an estimated $11 million in federal funding. This project will extend the 46-foot-deep channel to the end of the Galveston Harbor Project, allowing vessels calling the terminals located along the final 3,000 feet of the channel to utilize the existing 46-foot-deep water. Deepening the channel will accommodate larger vessels throughout the harbor to increase capacity, while also enabling improved operational safety.

“I am delighted that the White House recognized the merits of finally completing the Galveston Harbor Channel,” said Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas). “Compared to many other infrastructure projects, this long-overdue channel-deepening is relatively inexpensive, but its impact will be outsized: the Port of Galveston will definitely provide a bigger bang for the taxpayer’s buck! Given the many states that our products reach, our port will be even more productive, as we will be able to handle more ships more fully loaded, doing our part to ease the U.S. supply chain crisis.”

Houston Ship Channel

Since 2010, the Port of Houston has been partnering with the Galveston Engineer District to expand the Houston Ship Channel. The $1 billion channel improvement project—called Project 11—will receive an additional $142 million in funding under the IIJA. This funding is specifically designated to complete Segment 3 of Project 11, which focuses on the Barbours Cut Container Terminal section of the Houston Ship Channel, to improve efficiency and safety throughout the channel. 

When complete, Project 11 will widen the channel by 170 feet along its Galveston Bay reach, from 530 feet to 700 feet. It will also deepen some upstream segments from 41.5 feet  to 46.5 feet, make other safety and efficiency improvements and craft new environmental features. The FY 23 president’s budget also proposed allocating $40.3 million for operations and maintenance funding for the Houston Ship Channel. 

“This federal funding is essential to keep Project 11 on track and bring to fruition a safer, faster and cleaner ship channel for all users,” said Port Houston Executive Director Roger Guenther in a press release.  “This investment and continued partnership with the USACE will enable our ship channel to keep leading the way in supply chain efficiencies and meet the demands of new markets and supply chains. Thank you to all those involved in bringing these funds back to Houston.”

Galveston District

The Galveston Engineer District plays a key role in America’s well-being by keeping waterways open for navigation and commerce and is directly responsible for monitoring, maintaining and improving more than 1,000 miles of federal channels within coastal Texas.

“I am so incredibly proud of Galveston District and all of its champions of the coast,” said Col. Timothy Vail, district commander. “Every navigation project has now been authorized for construction, including full funding to complete Brazos Island Harbor, as well as Corpus and Galveston.”

The FY23 president’s budget proposed a total of $213 million for operations and maintenance funding the 1,000 of federal navigation channels within Texas, which is an increase from $113 million proposed in the FY22 president’s budget. The additional funding will significantly increase the amount of maintenance dredging, resulting in greater channel availability, and increase navigational safety for the project users. 

“We’re very excited about the proposals in the president’s FY23 budget but even more excited about the infrastructure bill,” Vail said. “A huge percentage of funding in the infrastructure bill for coast construction projects is dedicated to the Texas coast, mainly to the Houston and Galveston investments from this administration.”