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American Shipper

Army Corps issues favorable decision on Houston port expansion plan

Army Corps issues favorable decision on Houston port expansion plan

   The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released a favorable “record of decision” on the Port of Houston Authority’s request to build its proposed Bayport container and cruise terminal facility.

   The record of decision is a concise document that states what the decision on the permit is, and includes the district engineer’s views on the probable effect of the proposed project on the public interest. The record of decision recommends approval of the Bayport project.

   The Port of Houston Authority said the record of decision “is paving the way” for the permit.

   “The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is expected to complete a

review of the record of decision within 10 business days and forward the document for further review by the Coastal Coordination Council,” the port authority said. “Pending the favorable outcomes of both reviews, the Corps of Engineers is expected to grant a permit,” it added.

   In October, the Port of Houston Authority and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department signed a memorandum of agreement on the port authority’s plan to preserve coastal prairie habitat as part of the development of the proposed Bayport terminal. Specifically, the port authority will preserve 456 acres along the lower part of the San Jacinto river and 500 acres of prairie habitat.

   The port authority said that the Bayport facility includes several other mitigation measures to compensate for environmental impacts. The measures will include the use of clean fuel and clean engine technology to reduce air emissions and a three-mile-long buffer zone around the facility that will include a 20-foot-high “sight and sound berm.” The port authority also plans lighting systems designed to use “black light poles” and specially designed fixtures that will limit night-time impacts at the facility.

   The Corps issued the favorable decision on the Bayport project despite a pending lawsuit filed in June by the City of Shoreacres and other local municipalities and organizations. The lawsuit alleges that the Corps should prepare a supplemental draft environmental impact

statement on the Bayport project and challenges the Corps’ review of the Bayport project.

   The Bayport facility will have a maximum capacity of about 1.4 million containers, or twice the port authority’s current container handling capacity. Built out in phases over 15 to 20 years to meet market demand, the proposed Bayport complex will have enough space for seven ships and a 378-acre container storage yard, the port of Houston said.

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