$62M Sabine-Neches Waterway improvement has long-term benefits

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, January 9, 2024

The massive project to deepen the Sabine-Neches Waterway is moving along with the recent awarding of a contract to Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Corporation.

Great Lakes was awarded the $62.8 million Sabine-Neches Waterway Channel Improvement Project-Phase 1 contract late last year. The company was established in Chicago in the late 1800s and has corporate headquarters in Houston.

Matt Kauffman, assistant general manager for the navigation district, said this portion of the project begins 20 miles offshore and comes up the channel to just past Cheniere Energy. The goal is to dredge the channel from 40 feet to 48 feet in depth, which will allow larger vessels to reach local ports and waterway industries.

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Kauffman said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is completing a contract and will move out in approximately a month, then the newly awarded dredging begins.

The Corps of Engineers’ portion extended 12 miles further in the ship channel, he said.

The progression of the project is good news for many.

Larry Kelley, director/CEO of the Port of Port Arthur, said the Port is glad to see contractors working and the continued progress on the deepening project.

“The project has taken many years to come to fruition, but now it is really interesting to see project reports and advancement,” Kelley said. “This improvement for the next several decades will aide our region’s economic resiliency, as well as support jobs and economic development.”

Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick said the completion of the deepening project goes a long way towards accommodating the 650-plus new ships a year the region expects because of industrial expansions.

“This will also make our area more attractive to future industrial projects, because lightering will not have to be paid for, and ships can come in fully loaded,” Branick said.

Funding for the dredging is two-fold, with the Corps of Engineers using federal dollars on the first contract and the recently awarded portion coming from the 2022 bond proposition.

The deepening of the Sabine Neches Waterway is considered one of the largest waterway infrastructure projects under construction in the United States.

The journey to this point has been a long one, beginning in 2011 when the Corps proposed deepening the channel.

In 2013 Congress passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act authoring contraction of the proposed Sabine-Neches Waterway Channel Improvement Project, according to information from the Navigation District.

President Barak Obama signed the bill into law in 2014, and it took four years for the first round of federal funding to be allotted.

In 2019, the Sabine Neches Navigation District and Corps of Engineers signed a project partnership to start contraction of the deepening project.

The Corps of Engineers is constructing 60 percent of the project, with the Navigation District constructing the other 40 percent.

The channel is 57 miles long, and is the longest federal deep draft ship channel on the Texas Gulf Coast.

The Sabine-Neches Waterway is the largest exporter of crude oil and liquefied natural gas in the nation, according to information from district.

The Corps of Engineers estimates the total cost of the project at $1.4 billion.