The Galveston Engineer District has announced its intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Port of Corpus Christi Authority’s proposal to deepen a portion of its ship channel to 70 feet. The proposal is in addition to the already-in-progress Corpus Christi Ship Channel Improvement Project, which is increasing the entire channel to a depth of -54 feet (mean lower low water) and a width of 530 feet.
“To ensure that all of the issues related to this proposed project are addressed, the Corps will conduct public scoping meetings, at which agencies, organizations and members of the general public present comments or suggestions with regard to the range of actions, alternatives and potential impacts to be considered in the EIS,” the Corps said in the announcement.
The proposed 70-foot portion of the channel would stretch from the beyond the terminus of the ship channel in the Gulf of Mexico up to the southeast side of Harbor Island. Deepening to 70 feet would allow fully laden very large crude carriers (VLCCs) to call on proposed berths in that area.
The Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council named the proposal a major infrastructure project last June according to Title 41 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST-41), which aims to accelerate the permitting process for major projects.
Jayson Hudson, regulatory project manager for the Galveston District, said an added perk of the project, beyond just the economic benefits, is that it’s expected to involve the removal of about 46 million cubic yards of dredged material.
“The applicant, the Port of Corpus Christi Authority, is proposing to use suitable material to create near-shore feeder berms that will nourish eroded beach areas and to re-establish sand dunes on San Jose Island that were breached by Hurricane Harvey,” Hudson said. “The project will also restore placement-area erosion, place material in areas breached by Hurricane Harvey, and strengthen a perimeter berm along Harbor Island to absorb waves and ship wakes in order to protect marsh and submerged aquatic vegetation behind the berm. Material judged unsuitable for beneficial use would be deposited in authorized placement areas.”
If permitted, the proposed 70-foot portion of the channel would be funded by the Port of Corpus Christi Authority. Maintenance responsibility for the 70-foot channel could be assigned legislatively after the fact.
More information about the project, along with proposed scoping meetings, whether held in person or virtually, will be published online at the Galveston District’s website, www.swg.usace.army.mil. The goal for completing the recently-announced EIS is within two years.
Phase 1 of the overall ship channel deepening and widening project is already complete. In March, Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company LLC completed that initial phase, which deepened and widened the ship channel from the Gulf of Mexico to Harbor Island. Contract two, recently awarded to Callan Marine Ltd., will deepen and widen the channel from Harbor Island to 2.7 miles beyond the La Quint Junction, including terminals at Ingleside. Callan is deploying its General MacArthur pipeline dredge for the job. C&C Marine & Repair recently completed the General MacArthur, which is considered the largest cutterhead dredge in the U.S. fleet. Phase 2 of the deepening is expected to be completed by early 2022.