Plans for Port Arthur, Port Neches boat ramp repairs run into increased cost challenges

Published 12:38 am Wednesday, February 8, 2023

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The cities of Port Neches and Port Arthur have recently taken the next steps in improving widely used public boat ramps. However, both are contending with the escalating price of materials.

The Port Neches City Council voted to approve agreements with Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Texas General Land Office that would ultimately grant a total of $665,000 in funds to go toward repairs to and near Riverfront Park boat ramps, which serve as the only access into the Neches River and Sabine Lake between Beaumont and Sabine Pass.

The TCEQ agreement, which accounts for $550,000, states funding “is intended to restore and enhance recreational uses of natural resources, including boating, fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing.”

The City of Port Neches is utilizing two grants from state agencies to improve recreational boating at Riverfront Park. (Monique Batson/The News)

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In addition to repairs to the two ramps, city officials said that also includes work to the parking lot.

The funding, said City Manager Andre Wimer, is part of a settlement from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

“Judge Branick was very instrumental in facilitating the city being able to have access to these funds,” he said.

Branick in March said Jefferson County could receive up to $200 million in coastal funding from fines and penalties collected after the spill.

In addition to the funding from TCEQ, City Council approved an agreement with Texas General Land Office for $115,000 in relation to the same project.

That money stemmed 2004 when Buffalo Marine Barge 405 struck the Torm Mary, a Danish Tanker, in Nederland.

“The state used the boat launch as a staging area, and so these funds were reimbursement to the city for that use of the property,” Wimer said. “We’ve periodically over the decade and a half that I’ve been here…asked about these funds.”

The partnering entities will begin solicitation for engineering firms once approve the agreements. Afterward, Wimer said, the city would have a better idea of what can be done with the funding.

“When we originally contemplated the project three years ago, costs were significantly lower for construction than they are now,” he said. “So we have advised both entities that there may be a change in the scope of work because of construction costs.”

A Texas Parks and Wildlife grant will allow the city of Port Arthur to evaluate repairs to Pleasure Island Pier, pictured, and Miracle Beach Boat Launch. (Monique Batson/The News)

Pleasure Island

The Port Arthur City Council recently approved an ordinance amendment that would ultimately lead to restoring the Pleasure Island Pier and Miracle Beach Boat Launch.

In 2019, the city applied for a grant from Texas Parks in Wildlife to repair the 30-plus-year-old, 275-feet-long pier and boat launch that each sustained severe storm damage. The process was delayed due to the pandemic.

Ultimately they were granted $110,362 and estimated repairs to cost $145,750 — $36,437.50 of that as part of a 25 percent grant requirement to be paid by the city.

In late 2021, the city was given 18 months to perform the planning stages before awarding the part of the grant that would be applied to construction, which is estimated to last two years.

Pleasure Island Director George Davis said the city is the planning stages when it comes to the pier and boat ramp and hired Fittz and Shipman, Inc. for the ramp, as they did for the Sabine Pass boat ramp.

Davis said he foresees no problem with completing the work, and Texas Parks in Wildlife has been advised that additional funding may be needed.

“You’re talking about 2019; pricing has gone up on everything,” he said. “A lot of times you leave a little bit of contingency, but we didn’t expect things to go up this much.”