The Galveston District, Port Houston and the Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company jointly officially kicked off the Houston Ship Channel (HSC) Expansion—or Project 11—with a ceremony at the District’s Headquarters June 1.
Port Houston is the local, non-federal sponsor for the project and is partnering with USACE Galveston to expand the channel. Guests and USACE officials celebrated the beginning of the project with one of the world’s largest, eco-friendly dredges—the Carolina—in the backdrop.
Port Houston Chairman Ric Campo spoke on the collaboration powering Project 11 and its projected impact on the local and national economy.
“This project has a tremendous positive economic, safety, and environmental benefit to the nation,” Campo said, adding that Project 11 will deliver $134 million of increased annual economic impact—or $365,000 a day—when completed.
Campo also touched on how widening the channel will improve the channel’s navigation safety. “The sooner we realize the economic benefits of more efficient movement of vessels, the better.”
Over the next three years, the channel will also undergo a billion-dollar expansion, Campo said. “This will secure Houston as the nation’s goods movement powerhouse for another century.”
Great Lakes Dredge and Dock CEO Lasse Petterson then took to the podium to talk about his company’s commitment to reducing their environmental impacts. While acknowledging the 263-foot Carolina dredge floating in the Galveston Bay behind him, Petterson mentioned the $5 million upgrade to the dredge’s engine that will significantly reduce emissions.
It is also an important project for the Galveston District and the District’s higher headquarters—the USACE Southwestern Division (SWD)—according to SWD Commander Col. Kenneth Reed.
“As the federal agency that maintains and constructs much of the nations’ public infrastructure, the Army Corps of Engineers continues to work in partnership with Port Houston on one of the most impactful infrastructure projects nationwide,” he said.
Aside from building up infrastructure and partnerships, Project 11 also focuses on the environment and sustainability, Reed said.
“One of [Project 11’s] priority areas is the use of the ‘green’ dredge,” Reed said. “Environmental stewardship is also a major part of the Project 11 expansion.”
The project will improve air quality over time by making shipping more efficient and reducing wait times for ships to navigate the channel. Marine and aquatic habitats will also benefit from the project, Reed said. “Half of this nearly $1 billion project involves creating environmental benefits by using dredged material to build bird islands, marsh habitats, and adding hundreds of acres of new water filtering oyster reefs.”
The HSC is a 52-mile-long channel with more than 200 public and private facilities alongside it. Expanding it is critical to safely and efficiently sustaining national energy security, domestic manufacturing growth, thriving U.S. exports, and expanding job opportunities.
Also attending the event were numerous state, local and federal elected officials, including: U.S. Congressional Representatives Brian Babin, Lizzie Fletcher, and Randy Weber; Texas State Representatives Mary Ann Perez, Dennis Paul, and Briscoe Cain; Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo; Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Michael Connor; and U.S. Coast Guard Houston-Galveston Sector Commander Capt. Jason Smith.
The first segment of the project will see dredging from Bolivar Roads to Redfish. When completed, the HSC expansion will widen the channel from 530 feet to 700 feet along the Galveston Bay reach. It will also deepen some upstream segments to 46.5 feet, making other safety and navigation improvements.
Project 11 is slated to be completed by 2025.