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Local News

August 1, 2013

County moves on with projects

BEAUMONT — The Jefferson County Department of Engineering has requested additional funding for two projects that have been on the books in Port Arthur for some time.

The department has requested an additional $600,000 for a baffle at Keith Lake Fish Pass, and an additional $500,000 for a boat ramp at the park.

Time is running out on a $500,000 grant given to the county by United States Parks and Wildlife for an environmental project, said Don Rao, director of engineering, at a budget hearing meeting held Wednesday at the Jefferson County Courthouse, 1149 Pearl St., Beaumont. The county decided to use the funding for the boat ramp, which must be complete by the end of 2014.

“We’re getting down to the wire, so we need to go ahead and do this project if at all possible,” Rao said. “They will not even consider us for another grant until we spend this money.”

Construction for the ramp began in 2004, Rao said, and the department of engineering has already built an entry road and a large portion of the parking area. Golden Pass and the dredging companies have been utilizing the area and keeping it refurbished, but funds for the remainder of the project weren’t present in 2004.

“In ’04, we were kind of tight, and we pushed off a lot of things,” said Precinct 4 Commissioner Everette “Bo” Alfred. “But we made a commitment when they gave us the land. Let’s get it out of the way.”

Another project on hand is the Keith Lake Fish Pass baffle, which has been around since 1999, Rao said. He added that once a study conducted by the Corps of Engineering is complete, the baffle can become eligible to be a Corps-funded project. The study is currently about 90 percent complete.

This project is imperative because it will stem the flow of saltwater intrusion that is currently destroying the marsh, said Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick.

“It’s killing the marsh, it’s killing the seafood industry,” Branick said. “If we don’t protect the marsh, it’s going to die.”

Branick said he is hopeful that the county will receive funding for this project from the United States Parks and Wildlife trust fund. If that happens before Sept. 30, he said, the baffle project can be removed from the budget.

Rao plans to look at bids for both projects next month.

Branick also plans to make McFaddin Beach a contingency line item in the budget. He recently met with the RESTORE Act Council in Galveston, which is comprised of representatives from the five Gulf states — Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

“They were thrilled someone from Texas finally showed up,” Branick said. “Our beach is their No. 1 priority.”

Email: ecallahan@panews.com

Twitter: @ErinnPA

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