Officials with the Port of Morgan City and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are working with businesses to ensure all of the tonnage that passes through the port is accounted for so that the port can receive adequate long-term funding. The Morgan City Harbor and Terminal District Commission met Monday. Tom Podany, director of the Corps’ waterborne commerce statistics division, was in Morgan City Monday for a stakeholders meeting to discuss the reporting of tonnage that travels through the port waterways.
Port leaders have been working with the waterborne commerce division to address the issue of under-reported tonnage. U.S. ports are ranked by the amount of waterway commerce tonnage that passes through each port and receive dredging funds commensurate with that ranking. The Port of Morgan City has developed “a much better working relationship” with the waterborne commerce group during the past few months, said Cindy Cutrera, the port’s economic development manager. Fluid mud, known as fluff, accumulates in the Atchafalaya River Bar Channel, which starts at the mouth of the river and empties into the Gulf of Mexico, and makes navigation difficult or impossible for some vessels. Sand also builds up in the river itself, impeding vessel traffic. After discussion with area industry, Podany expects to receive cooperation from businesses to accurately identify the amount of tonnage they have. Podany also assured companies that the Corps keeps companies’ “proprietary information” confidential, he said. “Everyone wants to make sure that ports and waterways get their fair reporting so that good decisions can be made about investments in the future,” Podany said. Port Commissioner Deborah Garber said Monday’s stakeholder meeting “brought us a long way as far the relationship with the stakeholders and their participation in trying to get the tonnage correct.” Corps officials from the waterborne commerce division have committed to continuing to work with the port on the tonnage issue, Port Executive Director Raymond “Mac” Wade said. In February, port officials learned that President Donald Trump had proposed a budget for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works Division that included $12.7 million in dredging funds for the Port of Morgan City. That proposed budget is for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. This funding would double the roughly $6 million in dredging funds that the port has received annually during the past few years. “This gives us the first time we actually have an opportunity to ... open up a channel all the way,” said Tim Connell, the Corps’ Atchafalaya region  manager. Officials have stressed to the maritime business community the importance of accurately reporting their tonnage so the Port of Morgan City can continue the amount of funds leaders expect to receive for the 2019 fiscal year, Cutrera said. “We’re telling them we’re not going to be able to continue to get this money if we don’t report our tonnage, if we don’t increase our tonnage and bring in more business,” Cutrera said. “I think that it finally struck a nerve with everybody that we really have to do this.” The additional funds
for 2019 should allow the port to keep the Atchafalaya River and bar channel consistently dredged to 20 feet deep and 250 feet wide,  Connell said. Officials are in the process of getting a vessel to dredge the bar channel. Funding will also help officials dredge any  buildup of sand in the river. There also may be some additional funds available as a result of the impact Hurricane Harvey had on the waterways. But no official word has been released in regard to that funding, Connell said. Port leaders are submitting proposals for several projects that have the potential to beneficially use dredge material, Cutrera said. The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority contacted the port to look at doing a beneficial use pilot program project involving Point Au Fer Island in  Terrebonne Parish. Officials have also prepared a proposal with the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to create land just east of the Atchafalaya River along with a pipeline that would lead to Point Au Fer Island, Cutrera said. In addition to two potential projects,  port officials are exploring the possibility of transporting dredge material to Avoca Island, she said. In other business, the commission—Renewed the port’s millage of 4.48 mills for the 2018 tax year.
—Approved the port to send letters regarding the renewal of leases with the city of Morgan City, Rebel Land Corp., and Robel E. Lawrence Sr. and an amendment to a contract with LHE Inc.through 2041.
Published by Daily Review 03/13/18


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