Port of Brownsville ship channel dredging project complete

By The Brownsville Herald, Texas

Jun. 21–The Port of Brownsville has completed dredging of the Brownsville Ship Channel, according to a port official.

The project, which removed sand from the inner part of the channel, is meant to help larger vessels enter the port.

The dredging took approximately four months and was badly needed, Manuel Ortiz, public information officer for the Port of Brownsville, said. The channel had not been dredged since the mid-1990s.

“As a general rule the port receives money regularly to maintain the channel, but due to years of lack of federal funding, major shoaling occurred,” Ortiz said

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted the dredging operation that was funded by federal stimulus money distributed by the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development.

The operation cost almost $16 million, with additional engineering funded through an administrative budget, Ortiz said.

“Ideally, a dredging operation of this magnitude should take place about every two to three years,” Ortiz said. “However, due to storms and lack of funding we have had minor dredging operations conducted on a yearly basis.”

The sediment and other dredging material that were gathered during the project were used in an environmental friendly way, Ortiz said.

“The port is committed to being environment conscious and we try to have a beneficial use for all our material,” Ortiz said. “The dredging material that was of higher quality was used for beach re-nourishment and the rest of the dredged materials were disposed of in our disposal placement areas.”

However, to prepare for placement of the dredged material, the Port of Brownsville received funds for engineering and construction costs, indulging $1.35 million to build levees to hold the volume of material being moved.

With hurricane season perceived as a major factor leading to shoaling at the port, only vessels with lighter loads were allowed to enter. According to Ortiz, the port may now accept vessels with a draft up to 39 feet with a load at a full capacity. Ortiz says this will not only benefit businesses in the Port of Brownsville but shippers will save money by not making as many trips.



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