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Port of Corpus Christi Dredging Project Finds More Money

The Port of Corpus Christi is the leading U.S. crude oil export port and the fourth-largest port in the United States in terms of tonnage.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers set aside another $59 million for the Port of Corpus Christi’s Channel Improvement Project. The dredging, which has been on the port’s wish list since 1990, is finally building up a stockpile that should allow work to continue in 2019. The projected end date is 2021, when the new Harbor Bridge opens and the old Harbor Bridge is taken down.

The $59 million is part of the Corps of Engineers’ 2019 budget. It allocated $23 million toward the project in its 2018 budget. Another $13 million from the president’s fiscal year 2019 budget was appropriated by Congress in September. Adding in the $78 million that the port recently signed over to the Corps of Engineers for the Channel Improvement Project brings the amount now on hand to $173 million. Total estimate for the entire project is $360 million.

“The inclusion of additional Work Plan funds is yet another significant milestone toward the United States becoming a net exporter of its energy production,” said Sean Strawbridge, chief executive officer for the Port of Corpus Christi.

The dredging is necessary to allow bigger ships to pull into docks for land-based loading rather than the more expensive loading by barges in the bay. The new, taller bridge will also allow bigger ships entry into the Corpus Christi Ship Channel.

“Energy markets are taking notice as the majority of incremental U.S. energy production is coming to Corpus Christi and, ultimately, to the global markets,” Strawbridge continued. “We expect over two to three million barrels per day of new crude production coming our way, and our energy-producing and marketing customers know we are building out all the necessary infrastructure to handle these new volumes safely and responsibly.”

One part of the project is already completed. La Quinta Channel is now 400 feet deep and 45 feet wide after it was dredged for 1.4 miles. The port also restored an ecosystem that protects 45 acres of existing seagrass beds from waves and currents created by ship traffic and built a 2,200-foot offshore breakwater to stop erosion that can kill fish and other animal habitats.

The next dredging project will widen the Corpus Christi Ship Channel to 530 feet, taking it down to a depth of 52 feet. The second contract will cover from Harbor Island to the Ingleside-La Quinta channel intersection. Third will be the dredging and widening of the ship channel from Ingleside to the Harbor Bridge. The fourth and final contract will cover the dredging of the inner harbor.

An estimate for the first part of the four-part project came in over estimates, creating a snag in the process in September. The port did not release the bid totals, which should have been about $32 million. Bids were at least 125 percent higher than that, according to some estimates, as the Corps of Engineers is not allowed by law to accept bids over that amount. Negotiations have been underway to bring the estimates in line.

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Bobby Dodd —
The bid abstract can be downloaded from the federal government here:
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