By ZACHARY FITZGERALD
MORGAN CITY — Today’s trip to Washington, D.C., for Port of Morgan City Executive Director Raymond “Mac” Wade will be one to both thank federal officials for their help to get additional funding to dredge the Atchafalaya River Bar Channel and to let them know that more funding is still needed, he said. Wade is traveling to Washington, D.C., today to discuss dredging, to hunt for money and to thank the Louisiana congressional delegation for signing a letter that led to the acquisition of $4 million in additional funding for Atchafalaya River dredging. Wade will meet with the assistant chief of staff to the head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this afternoon to let the corps know that the dredging funds are “still not enough.” The Morgan City Harbor and Terminal District Commission met Monday at the Port of Morgan City.
At the meeting, Mike Lowe of the Corps of Engineers said the corps completed its dredging of the Atchafalaya River Bar Channel on Jan. 7 at a cost of about $13.2 million. Lowe mentioned the extra $4 million that the corps received in its 2015 budget for dredging projects in the Atchafalaya River. The funds will help somewhat to keep the river dredged, but the Corps could use more funding to dredge in that area, Lowe said. Corps officials are looking to possibly share some mobilization costs with a dredging project in Houma to be able to dredge more in the Bar Channel, Lowe said. Jonathan Hird, of Moffat & Nichol, said engineers are trying to determine whether the trips of the Oslo Bulk 9, the ship leased by port tenant PMI Nutrition International, is helping to keep the depth of the Bar Channel adequate, he said. The ship is 360 feet long, 60 feet wide and 105 feet tall. Lowe said the ship’s draft can help increase the depth of the Bar Channel more easily than Berwick Bay due to the material in the channel being softer than the river sand in the bay. Engineers are working to finish an analysis of the economic impact that the ship’s trips to the Port of Morgan City has on the community and what the impact of a 20-foot Bar Channel could mean, economically, for the area, Hird said. The ship comes into the port about once every 10 days, he said. On Feb. 2, Wade said that preliminary results of the analysis showed the ship’s annual impact to the region is estimated at about $3.6 million. Port officials are awaiting LSU economist Jim Richardson to give his final summary on the analysis. Wade expects the study to be complete by next week, he said. Also at Monday’s meeting, Port’s Governmental Emergency and Operations Center Project Manager Walt Adams said construction on the center is almost 25 percent complete, in terms of money spent, and is scheduled to be substantially complete by the end of September. The total project cost is roughly $11 million and will serve as a command center during emergencies, such as hurricanes, in addition to housing governmental tenants on a daily basis.
Published in Daily Review February 10, 2015