Posted January 9, 2019
Thirty years in the planning, dredging should begin soon in the Corpus Christi Channel Improvement Project. The first construction contract has been awarded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. LLC of Oak Brook, Illinois. The first phase of the dredging will cost $93 million and run from the entrance of the ship channel to Harbor Island. Work is expected to begin in the second quarter of this year.
"The award of this first dredging contract is without a doubt the most important development we will see in 2019," said Port of Corpus Christi Commission Chairman Charlie Zahn in a statement. "Building critical infrastructure for the energy sector is our primary mission and will allow larger vessels access to much needed export facilities, safely and responsibly."
Dredging will lower the first portion of the 36-mile-long ship channel to 54 feet from its current 47 feet. A second phase of the project will take the channel down to 56 feet out into the Gulf of Mexico.
Port CEO Sean Strawbridge called the award “an extraordinary step forward in positioning the United States as the largest exporter of energy in the world.” Currently, the Port of Corpus Christi is the leading U.S. crude oil export port in the country in total tonnage.
Initial bids for the project came in over budget last summer, setting back the Port of Corpus Christi’s timetable about eight months (never mind the 30-year wait for funding). Originally promised in 1990, funding from the federal government has finally come through. Congress approved a total of $95 million in appropriations in 2018 and 2019 for the dredging project. The port will supply $130 million toward the $360 million price tag. Another $135 million is expected from the federal government in the future to complete the project. Just in case, the board of commissioners voted in June 2018 to issue $217 million in bonds to keep the project moving, no matter how slowly government funding comes in.
The timetable for completion should coincide with the opening of the new Harbor Bridge in 2021. The taller bridge and deeper ship channel will allow for bigger ships to fully load dockside rather than in the Gulf. Dockside loading is cheaper, faster, and less prone to hazardous content spills.
Moving forward on the long-awaited project can only boost port business and the local economy, said Lasse Petterson, chief executive officer for Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. With 128 years in the dredging business, Great Lakes Dredge & Dock has worked on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill cleanup, deepening PortMiami harbor, and multiple projects in Texas, including with the Port of Corpus Christi.
“As the largest dredging company in the U.S., we have a long and successful history working in Texas,” Petterson said. “We are confident that this will drive the much-anticipated future investment and development in the Port, since, as we like to say, ‘It all starts with dredging!’”