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Liberty port vision seeks clear channel

The proposed project to open a channel on the Trinity River from Liberty to the Houston Ship Channel would begin by reconnecting the oxbow (light blue) with the main body of the river (darker blue), so it can be home to a new port.

Posted on March 25, 2024

David Leonard and other Liberty County leaders have a dream: barges carrying goods in and out of a revitalized Port of Liberty to drive new businesses to nourish the ever-expanding population of Liberty County.

“It’s a bright future,” Leonard said. “It’s kind of a dim light getting there, but it’s a bright future.”

A lifelong resident of Liberty, the retired car dealer has been a board member of the Trinity River Authority since 2008.

The TRA, which has a service area stretching over 18,000 square miles of Texas along the Trinity River basin from north of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to its outfall into Trinity Bay near Anahuac, is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to create a Vision Plan for the Port of Liberty.

The Vision Plan will focus on the best uses for lands related to the Port of Liberty that support economic development, environmental stewardship and multi-modal transportation, including Trinity River navigation.

The proposed project is a 47-mile waterway that starts at the Anahuac Channel to the Trinity River mouth, then snakes 41.4 miles northward to the Port of Liberty.

The new Port of Liberty would be located in an oxbow just southeast of the Highway 90 bridge over the Trinity. An oxbow is a U-shaped lake or pool that forms when a wide meander of a river is cut off, creating a free-standing body of water. This oxbow would be reconnected to the river by dredging. 

The state (TRA) and federal (USACE) agencies held a series of meetings in Liberty Wednesday to seek comment and suggestions from local government and business leaders as well as the general public. A timeline for the development of the Vision Plan was unveiled, showing a draft available for public review set for September of this year, with release of the final document in December.

“We don’t have a plan. We have a plan to develop a plan,” said one of the more than dozen representatives from TRA and USACE on hand for the public meeting Wednesday evening.

People attending the meetings were asked to list the things they’d like to see: assets to keep in place, liabilities, opportunities and concerns.

Wednesday kicked off a 30-day comment period. For information about the Vision Plan, and/or to comment, go to .

Once finalized, the project’s authors will seek governmental funding.

The entire process of dredging and making the Trinity navigable up to Liberty is a project that will cost billions of dollars and take a decade, maybe two, to complete.

If it is funded.

“I don’t know that I’ll ever live to see it,” Leonard said. “Not as slow as government moves.

“But I’m real excited. I’m excited to see it going again, and I’d like to keep it going.”

Local property owners were among those who attended meetings held in Liberty this week to learn about and contribute to a “Vision Plan” for a proposed project that would open a channel on the Trinity River from Liberty to the Houston Ship Channel.

The TRA director says barges could take a big bite out of truck traffic. He said Boomerang Tube of Liberty “at one time was bringing in 40 rolls of steel a day. That’s 40 trucks coming in and going out. A barge could bring at least 40 rolls, maybe more, on one barge.

“Mont Belvieu companies like ExxonMobil Plastics can be dumping their pellets on barges and take them out much, much cheaper than they are now by rail or trucks.

“You take those trucks off the highway, (you get) less emissions, less highway congestion. It’s a win-win situation.”

Dating back almost 200 years, proposals have been made for a channel from Galveston up the Trinity as far as Dallas but, for mostly financial reasons, that never happened. Leonard said he was part of a TRA talk seven years ago that rekindled the shorter and much more modest idea.

“It was one of our visions. It just kind of took off and here we are today,” he said. “We’ve gotten this far. We have a difficult road. We scratched the surface tonight.”


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