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Biden earmarks $236M to complete Texas ship channel projects

Ports of Corpus Christi, Galveston and Brownsville to receive funds for channel expansions

The Port of Corpus Christi is located on the western Gulf of Mexico, with a 36-mile ship channel that currently has a depth of 47 feet and a width of 400 feet. (Photo: Port of Corpus Christi)

More funding is on the way for several ship channel improvement projects in Texas, which aim to attract larger tanker and container vessels to the Texas Gulf Coast.

The Port of Corpus Christi ship channel improvement project was included in President Joe Biden’s proposed $5.8 trillion spending plan for the 2023 fiscal year announced Monday. Biden recommended $157.3 million for the project under the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers coastal navigation construction category. 

The Biden administration also announced Tuesday it is investing nearly $68 million in the Port of Brownsville in Texas as part of the infrastructure bill signed last year. The project will deepen the Brazos Island harbor channel to increase cargo capacity and reduce transit times. 

The Port of Brownsville is a deepwater seaport located along the U.S.-Mexico border and is connected to the Gulf of Mexico by a 17-mile-long ship channel. 

The Port of Galveston located on the upper Texas Gulf Coast will also receive $11 million from the infrastructure bill to deepen a portion of the Galveston harbor channel to increase shipping capacity, according to a release.

Biden’s $5.8 billion spending plan still needs congressional approval. If approved, the $157.3 million in funding for the Port of Corpus Christi would cover completion of the ship channel improvement project, officials said.

“Closing out this project has been over 30 years in the making, a project vital for essential American goods to flow to our trading partners and allies who depend on our customers’ ability to do so as safely, efficiently and dependably as possible,” Charles W. Zahn, commission chairman for the Port of Corpus Christi, said in a statement.

The project has already received about $250 million in federal appropriations from the Army Corps of Engineers, with the Port of Corpus Christi appropriating another $190 million in funding.

“The Corpus Christi ship channel improvement project will significantly increase U.S. exports of energy and agriculture products from Texas and the U.S.,” Sean Strawbridge, the port’s CEO, said in a statement.  

The Port of Corpus Christi’s ship channel improvement project began in May 2019. The plan is to dredge the channel to a depth of 54 feet and widen it to 530 feet, with an additional 400 feet of barge shelves. 

The Port of Corpus Christi is located on the western Gulf of Mexico, with a 36-mile ship channel that currently has a depth of 47 feet and a width of 400 feet.

The port ended 2021 with record tonnage, attributable to an 81% year-over-year increase in shipments of liquefied natural gas, officials said. Crude oil exports from the port averaged a record 1.76 million barrels per day in 2021, a slight increase over the 2020 record performance. 

The Port of Corpus Christi is also a hub for the transportation of wind turbine components, agricultural commodities, refined fuels and military cargo. The port offers interchanges with BNSF, Kansas City Southern and Union Pacific.

Watch: FreightWaves’ John Gallagher discusses how recent legislation will impact the freight industry.

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Noi Mahoney

Noi Mahoney is a Texas-based journalist who covers cross-border trade, logistics and supply chains for FreightWaves. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English in 1998. Mahoney has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working for newspapers in Florida, Maryland and Texas. Contact [email protected]