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Port of Houston Director Describes Dredge Funding Shortfall

Port of Houston Director Describes Dredge Funding Shortfall

In a conversation with Alec Dreyer, the new executive director of the Port of Houston Authority, staff writer David Murray learned that dredging is the major concern for the port. Dreyer estimated that the port is realizing only eight cents per ton in maintenance money in return for $127 million contributed to the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund last year.

Dreyer described a $68 million study on the consequences of not dredging that the Port has commissioned from the Texas Transportation Institute.

Murray then asked how the dredging shortfall happened, and what questions the study will answer.

Alec Dreyer: Like many ports, the Port of Houston silts up rapidly, and we rely on the Corps of Engineers for maintaining the proper depth and width of our channels. Last year, the Port of Houston contributed about $127 million to the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. We need about $40 million a year to maintain proper authorized depth and width. This year, we got about $25 million.

Now, that’s about a 20 to 25 percent increase in dredging funds from the previous year, more than many other ports got. But we need to continue to assess what’s fair. Right now, about 82 percent of the Houston Ship Channel is not dredged to its authorized depth.

We commissioned a study of how much we were getting compared to other ports, relative to the amount of cargo we move. That is, we divided the tonnage of cargo moved by the amount invested in dredging. The average for ports on the East and Gulf Coast combined is about 42 cents per ton.
But there are variations within that range! Some ports get as much as $2 per ton. Houston is getting only about eight cents per ton!

We’ve been working to get our message across. We’ve been working with our Congressional delegation. Speaker (of the House of Representatives Nancy) Pelosi has visited us; we had (Secretary of Transportation) Ray LaHood down here a few months ago. We would really like to get President Obama down here.

The complete interview was published in the July 5th issue of The Waterways Journal.

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