by Martie Cenkci
Southwestern Division Public Affairs
Officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Southwestern Division met with representatives from Texas Ports and the Texas Department of Transportation in Galveston, Texas, June 20, to identify current areas of need and discuss opportunities to improve the infrastructure that supports the Texas Coast and its immense economic impact on both Texas and the Nation. The meeting, held in conjunction with the Texas Water Conservation Association’s mid-year conference in Galveston, provided an opportunity for Corps and state officials to look at current ways of doing business as well as identify means to improve customer relationships and support.
Participating in the meeting were TxDOT Commissioner Jeff Moseley, officials from the Ports of Beaumont, Brownsville, Calhoun, Corpus Christi, Freeport, Galveston, Houston, Mansfield, Orange, and Victoria and the Sabine-Neches Waterway.
“The Army Corps of Engineers and the Texas Port Authorities form a vital partnership to support the national economic powerhouse that is the Texas Coast,” said Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Kula, commander of the regional Southwestern Division in Dallas. “With its 28 ports tying it to the national and global economy, the condition of our Texas Coast is a “here and now” concern. We are continually seeking ways to improve that partnership as we work together to address current issues and future needs, as well as the impact of budget constraints and an aging infrastructure.”
The Texas Coast is one of the three major priority areas that make up SWD’s Infrastructure Strategy. The great arc of the Texas coast, which includes 13 shallow draft ports and 15 deep draft ports, all interconnected by 443 miles of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterways, sees the movement of more than 500 million tons of commerce. The strategic placement of the shallow draft ports, near shale oil discoveries, including the Eagle Ford Shale under much of South Texas, makes them especially vital to the oil and gas industry as well as the transportation to move the products of that industry.
Texas is the number two state in the Nation for maritime commerce, with 760 miles of shallow draft ports and 240 miles of deep draft ports. These ports account for more than $300 billion in economic impact, and provide more than a million jobs. There is more than $60 billion in private investment currently in the works, primarily due to the Panama Canal, oil reserves and the Eagle Ford Shale. The number of Post-Panamax vessels is expected to more than double, typically with a minimum hull draft of 39-60 feet (tankers 49-70 feet). No Texas port has a draft greater than 50 feet
The Corps’ responsibility to maintain all these ports to standards has become more difficult because of funding constraints. As part of its Infrastructure Strategy, SWD has been working with state and local partners to find solutions. For example, it has been in close collaboration with the TxDOT to find ways of funding the maintenance of the shallow draft ports to meet the transportation needs of the oil and gas industry in the future.
“Communications with our partners is the key,” said Kula. “Whether we are working with the Texas Port Authorities, state agencies such as TxDOT and the Texas General Land Office, or local officials, we must have strong partnerships, as well as communications that are coordinated and synchronized at the national, state, and local levels.
“In these days of constrained budgets, we must continue to meet with, educate, and collaborate with all that have an interest in keeping our great Texas ports reliable and resilient, and focused on the future viability of this region.”