Dredging & Marine Construction

With Conclusion Of Channel Dredging Project, Port Of Mansfield, Texas, Has Big Dreams

Port Mansfield, a 1,769-acre district on the Gulf Coast in Willacy County, Texas, has been a popular but relatively sleepy recreational fishing port for years. But that could all change soon, according to Ron Mills, the Willacy County Navigation District’s director. In an exclusive interview with the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service, Mills said he expects the port to be moving between $250-$300 million of trade within the next three to five years.

That’s because after years of lobbying, the Corps of Engineers has finished dredging the port’s ship channel. At only 3 feet deep previously, it was barely deep enough for fishing vessels to navigate. Now it has a depth of 17 feet, which allows ocean-going barges and tugs to enter the harbor. 

Consulting firm The Shepherd Group helped the Willacy County Navigation District secure federal funding to dredge the ship channel. The Rio Grande Valley Partnership helped The Shepherd Group’s Ron Whitlock get the support of U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar for dredging funds: $17 million that grew to $25 million. An additional $6 million has been pledged by the Texas Department of Transportation to build a new access road and container laydown area. Mills said the Shepherd Group’s study commissioned for the port estimated a future business of between 200 and 400 containers per day.

Mills said he is negotiating with five potential port customers or tenants that could bring in up to $40 million in initial investments. Mills told the Rio Grande Guardian that Willacy County Navigation District’s focus is to look south toward Mexico—Altamira and Tampico rather than Corpus Christi to the north. Its proposed business model and cargo mix differs from that of the nearby port of Brownsville, he said.

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He said Mexico has built a new port between Altamira and Brownsville.