GLPC Applauds Approval of Landmark Funding for Channel Dredging

CUT OFF, LA – The Greater Lafourche Port Commission is pleased to learn of the funding approval by the U.S. House of Representatives for the Port Fourchon Belle Pass Channel Deepening project, and for yearly Operations and Maintenance dredging of the federal channels at Port Fourchon.

“We were happy to learn that the House Appropriations Committee approved in the Energy and Water Development Appropriations legislation $1.5 million to begin the Port Fourchon Belle Pass Channel Deepening project and $6.185 million for yearly Operations and Maintenance dredging of the federal channels at Port Fourchon. We applaud our Congressman Steve Scalise for his effort to achieve these milestone funding levels in this bill,” GLPC Executive Director Chett Chiasson said.

In 2016, Port Fourchon received approval by the Assistant Secretary of the Army, Civil Works, to conduct a Feasibility Study under Section 203 of the Water Resources Development Act of 1986. The feasibility study was drafted by GLPC, in cooperation with the Corps of Engineers and other federal stakeholders, state resource agencies, and non-governmental organizations. The cost of the study was borne by GLPC, a portion of which will be credited towards the Port Commission’s local share of the channel deepening project at Port Fourchon. The feasibility study was completed by GLPC early in 2020, approved by the Assistant Secretary of the Army, Civil Works, and subsequently Congress authorized the Port Fourchon Belle Pass Channel Deepening project in the Water Resources Development Act of 2020, at a total cost of $61,603,901.00.

“To meet the needs of our tenants’ requirements for deeper draft in our channels and the unique nature of our business as an offshore energy service port is what prompted our decision to move forward with drafting this feasibility study under the Section 203 process,” Chiasson said. “While our ultimate goal is to deepen a portion of our channel to a 50-foot depth leading to our planned Fourchon Island development, we selected a depth of 30 feet in this study in order to meet the immediate needs of our tenants and users.  Beyond the economic development benefits of this project, 100 percent of the disposal of dredge material will be utilized to restore marshes surrounding the port. While the feasibility study was drafted by GLPC, it was done in cooperation with the Assistant Secretary of the Army, Civil Works, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Headquarters, Division, and New Orleans District offices whose efforts are appreciated.”

The federal funding in this appropriations bill for the channel deepening project marks the first direct federal contribution to the dredging project and will enable the Corps to commence with the final design, leading to the construction phase of the project.

In addition to funding for the Port Fourchon deepening project, the House Appropriations bill also includes $6.186 million for yearly Corps of Engineers Operations and Maintenance dredging at the port.

“This level of funding should ensure that yearly maintenance needs and unexpected dredging actions from coastal storms will be adequately funded,” Chiasson said. “Last year South Louisiana was hit by a number of coastal storms, and our port experienced a large amount of shoaling in our channels. The Corps faced a shortfall of available funding, and the Port Commission agreed to contribute more than $2 million of non-reimbursable funding to the federal government in order to allow the Corps to award an emergency dredging contract to clear our channels. We appreciate the Corps District supporting this higher level of funding for the upcoming fiscal year, and are pleased to see that the House bill approved that amount.“

The House bill also includes an amendment sponsored by Representatives Steve Scalise, Garret Graves, and Troy Carter that provides an additional $6 million for projects that utilize beneficial use disposal options from federally maintained waterways.

“We applaud Representatives Scalise, Graves, and Carter for co-sponsoring this amendment on the House floor and securing its approval. The amendment will enable additional dredged material from federal projects to be utilized for coastal restoration efforts. Even today, far too much material from Louisiana projects is disposed of in open water. This amendment brings us closer to the point where all dredged material is treated as a valuable resource for coastal restoration purposes,” Chiasson said.

Chiasson closed his comments by saying, “The United States Senate still needs to approve this legislation before it will be enacted into law later this year. Nevertheless, the House action sets a tremendous mark for Corps funding for our channel deepening project, our O&M needs next year, and further enhancement of our coastal restoration efforts. We again appreciate the work of Representative Steve Scalise and the rest of the Louisiana congressional delegation for their efforts in achieving this milestone level of funding for our port, and we are presently working with Senators Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy to support this funding in the Senate.”

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