A proposal to deepen the Brownsville Ship Channel in order to accommodate newer, larger cargo vessels has received the official endorsement of the chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick, U.S. Army chief of engineers and commanding general of the USACE, recommended in his recent “Chief’s Report” to Secretary of the Army John McHugh that the channel be deepened to 52 feet from its current depth of 42 feet.
Bostick estimated that the project — dubbed the “Brazos Island Harbor Channel Improvement Project” — would cost $251 million, $116 million of which would be provided by the federal government, and wrote that it would result in significant economic advantages for commercial navigation in South Texas. The Port of Brownsville is the only deepwater port on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Eduardo Campirano, Brownsville port director and CEO, said having the Chief’s Report in hand is the last step in the years long feasibility-study phase, and means the project will be eligible for consideration in the next round of congressional authorizations. “It is another milestone in the process of achieving success,” he said. The project missed out on the last round of authorizations, contained in the Water Resources and Reform Development Act of 2014, because it didn’t have a Chief’s Report in hand, Campirano said. The next chance will be in 2016, when Congress is scheduled to reauthorize the WRRDA. The Chief’s Report “substantiates that the deepening project is in the national interest and merits consideration for federal authorization,” Campirano said. He said he thinks chances for authorization are good, considering several similar projects for Texas ports were authorized in 2014. Once a project is authorized, the next step is appropriation — securing funding.