Greater Lafourche Port Commission, Port Fourchon Turn 60 This Year
(CUT OFF, LA) – Unquestionably the biggest success story in the history of Lafourche Parish can be found at a place called Port Fourchon.
So, how did Port Fourchon emerge from a speck of land in southern Lafourche to hosting a valued tenant base that services nearly 100% of all deepwater offshore energy activity in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico?
Through grit and determination by Louisiana State Senator A.O. Rappelet and a multitude of dedicated commissioners, that’s how.
In 1960, Rappelet helped pass legislation to create the Greater Lafourche Port Commission (GLPC), which in turn established the area now known as modern-day Port Fourchon.
A VISION FOR THE FUTURE
Rappelet, unlike many of his counterparts, saw the potential of putting a port at the mouth of Bayou Lafourche to lure the banana trade from New Orleans to Lafourche Parish.
At first, the plan was simple: bring the banana trade to South Lafourche and let everything else build up around it.
While Rappelet missed the boat on bananas both literally and figuratively, his keen insights regarding Fourchon’s location eventually helped the infant port become a “Port of the Future” by building infrastructure and clearing channels to support a burgeoning oil and gas industry.
COMMUNITY SUPPORT IS KEY
Although Rappelet played the most prominent role in establishing GLPC, future development of any port costs money.
As has become customary from a self-reliant culture that also taxed itself to build the same highly-durable protective levees seen today in southern Lafourche, residents of the 10th Ward voted to approve a property tax in 1961 to fund development at Port Fourchon.
These tax dollars paved the way for the donation of property along Bayou Lafourche in Fourchon to the commission in 1963. The Caillouet Family, Louisiana Land & Exploration (now ConocoPhilips), the Constantine family, and the Wisner Land Trust have partnered with GLPC over the years to help make up the footprint of land that it currently owns or manages.
By 1965, the clamshell Fourchon Road was constructed and readied for traffic.
DREDGING CHANNELS, ELECTED BODY, AND CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT PROJECTS SPUR GROWTH
Making Belle Pass have 12 feet of depth and electing what is still the state’s only elected port commission in 1971 started the port down the path of becoming a legitimate economic asset to Lafourche Parish.
During a span of eight years stretching from 1971 to 1979, capital improvement projects began thanks to bond proceeds.
With this, a crucial environmental impact study was funded, and GLPC’s first Executive Director, Ted Falgout, was hired.
While all of these were positive developments, building up infrastructure and making an area attractive to businesses is only the beginning of establishing a true port of commerce.
You still need someone to take that first leap of faith.
Enter the port’s first major tenant, Martin Fuel, in 1979.
Next up, the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP) begins its operations in 1981, two years before the oil bust of 1983.
Now many would think the oil bust would have destroyed any chances Port Fourchon had at becoming anything significant, but they’d be wrong.
Thanks to the oil bust and the industry’s need to consolidate, the centralized location of Port Fourchon, dipping into the gulf as the southernmost city accessible by road in south Louisiana, was the thing that gave the port its ultimate footing.
After developing the 400-acre E-Slip in 1984, businesses, primarily Edison Chouest Offshore, flocked to the port to become tenants.
Transportation grants and investments made as a result of tax dollars tagged to Port Fourchon saw the port grow as lease revenues started to climb into the millions of dollars.
DEEPWATER ROYALTY RELIEF ACT CHANGES EVERYTHING
Passed in 1995, this singular piece of legislation established the necessary incentives for the drilling industry to go all in on exploratory activities in the Gulf of Mexico.
By 1998, the E-Slip project was completely leased 15 years ahead of schedule.
This exceptional growth led to further construction and the purchase of the South Lafourche Airport by the commission in 2001.
Total budgets continued to climb during this same time period and revenues eclipsed the $10 million mark by 2004, with nearly 250 companies operating from and/or utilizing Port Fourchon by 2005.
All these developments led to the construction of a new elevated highway that opened in 2009, one year before the port’s second Executive Director, Chett Chiasson, was hired.
DISRUPTION COMES IN THE FORM OF DISASTER ON TWO FRONTS
Between the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill incident of 2010 and the price of oil and gas bottoming out in 2014, GLPC saw some dark days.
As a service provider to deepwater offshore energy interests in the Gulf of Mexico, the temporary drilling ban that resulted from the oil spill incident, and then the resulting drop in O&G prices four years later, a negative tenor regarding future prosperity at the port was certainly a concern.
However, thanks to steadfast guidance and lowering rental rates for existing tenants to entice them to stay the course, Chiasson and the GLPC Board of Commissioners were able to steer Port Fourchon in a direction where growth continued despite the odds seemingly being stacked against them.
STRONGER NOW THAN EVER; POISED FOR THE FUTURE
With 75,000 linear feet of bulkhead now encompassing the footprint of Port Fourchon and lease revenues exceeding $29 million in 2019, it’s easy to see why GLPC has the reputation of being the main economic engine for Lafourche Parish.
As the port forges forward into its 60th year, the diligent efforts of GLPC’s commissioners and staff seek to keep contributing to the economic needs of Lafourche Parish through forward-thinking measures set on creating more jobs and prosperity for the bayou region.
Currently, GLPC is positioned well to capitalize on numerous opportunities moving forward.
For starters, work continues to progress towards getting the necessary approvals to eventually dredge to 50 feet in Belle Pass. That water depth will allow for the future development of Fourchon Island that will one day become the home to a deepwater rig, repair, and refurbishment facility which will certainly spur on further investments in our port and parish.
Of further importance, a future LNG project continues to inch closer to becoming a reality. A recent productive meeting with Energy World officials has reaffirmed the company’s initial commitment that will see them investing nearly $900 million in Port Fourchon and Lafourche Parish.
Additionally, work continues on the design-bid-build model for the construction of an airport corridor and bridge project that GLPC received a $16.4 million federal BUILD grant for at the end of 2018. This $35 million project has grant, capital outlay, port, and Lafourche Parish Government funds attached to it.
Also being planned is the eventual construction of a new bridge in Port Fourchon to replace the one that was removed in 2018.
When combined with last year’s announcement from the state that they would invest $150 million to complete the elevated portion of LA 1 down to Port Fourchon, which includes having LA DOTD submit for a federal INFRA Grant for another $150 million, the future for the port certainly looks brighter than ever.
The public and private investments mentioned above amount to about $1.7 billion coming into the 10th Ward of Lafourche Parish in the coming years.
Our founding GLPC forefathers certainly set us down a path to be successful and our current commissioners keep us moving towards continued prosperity as a port and parish. And, it must be stated that without our loyal tenant base none of this would be possible. Thank you to all the businesses that call Port Fourchon home and to the citizens of the 10th Ward of Lafourche Parish.
In the next several years, you will see large-scale investments being made by our port and other partners to not only move our parish forward but to provide more in the way of mitigation to help protect our entire region as well as sites to enjoy recreational pursuits such as kayaking and fishing.
To this end, GLPC is embracing its future while remembering its past.
Part of embracing that future is the launch of new logo, which will debut later this year.
This new iconic logo is certain to become identifiable with the port that is responsible for a significant portion of the nation’s total energy supply.
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