The artery of the area’s lifeline for industry — the Calcasieu Ship Channel — is getting a little less unclogged because of efforts by Rep. Clay Higgins.
Last week, the congressman announced he had succeeded in getting an additional $10 million from the Army Corps of Engineers’ discretionary fund for dredging of the channel.
That’s no small feat.
The extra funding, combined with $22 million already set aside for dredging in the 2017 federal budget brings the total to $32 million.
The port received $26 million in 2016.
Port of Lake Charles Director Bill Rase told the American Press last year that 46 percent of the Lake Area metro economy depends on the health of the ship channel. By 2023, the projected economic expansion tied to the channel is forecast to increase channel-dependent local revenue by nearly 80 percent.
If the channel isn’t maintained as it was designed — 40 feet deep by 400 feet wide — vessels needed for existing and new industries can’t come to the area, Rase said.
He said last week that the $32 million now set aside for the channel is the product of about nine years of fighting for awareness in Washington about the channel’s dredging needs.
Higgins’ zealous approach to the issue is to be commended.
“It has been a long time since we’ve had strong leadership in Washington to get the whole delegation together,” Rase said. “We’ve been working with everybody to try to keep Calcasieu in the forefront of the dredging situation, and congressman Higgins has been very strong in that area since he has been in office.”
He has been a strong voice for Southwest Louisiana, and this announcement proves it.
Maintaining the ship channel is critical to supporting the area’s anticipated expansion — and that requires regular dredging.
“I recognized that having the Calcasieu Ship Channel dredged properly was perhaps the most significant single economic impact we could make in our district and in our state,” Higgins said.
“We’re going to continue to push,” he said. “I won’t stop.”
Thank you, Congressman.