Corps awards $136M for dredging project

Calcasieu Ship Channel

Special to American Press

Just over $136 million was recently awarded to the Army Corps of Engineers’ New Orleans District to pay for operation and maintenance work along the Calcasieu Ship Channel.

Of the total, $103 million was part of this year’s Bipartisan Budget Act, with the remaining $33 million coming from the federal budget process, said Channing Hayden, director of navigation for the Port of Lake Charles.

Part of the money will be spent to dredge the ship channel to its congressionally authorized dimensions, which are 400 feet wide by 40 feet deep. Other funding will go to maintain sites that will take in dredged material from the channel.

Most of the funding will be spent on various rock projects, including protection dikes on Calcasieu Lake. Existing dikes along the channel will be repaired to prevent wave erosion at the dredge disposal sites. The Corps will also fix the entrance rock jetties at the bar channel in the Gulf of Mexico.

Port Director Bill Rase said the money “is a very big deal,” but that it can’t be used to rebuild existing disposal sites along the channel, which runs from the Gulf to Lake Charles. Federal funding for that work must be specified for construction, and it requires a 25 percent match from the Lake Charles Harbor and Terminal District, on the state’s behalf.

“It comes down to if the channel is not dredged, the whole community goes under,” he said. “The money will certainly serve some purposes, but none of it is construction funding.”

Rase said it is important that Calcasieu Parish is “getting recognized as an important part of the economy” on the state and federal levels. But, he said, the challenge lies in getting Congress to appropriate funding for the rest of the critical work.

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