Port could benefit from more federal funding


Morgan City port commissioners heard updates on dredging and mitigation Monday.

Bill Stiles of Congressman Jeff Landry’s office addressed the port commissioners with updates on issues facing the port.

“The energy appropriations bill passed last week, and I believe there’s going to be over a billion dollars in dredging funding, which is an increase, I think, of around $200 million from the last appropriation,” Styles said.

“From what I’m being told, it’s the largest appropriation ever on an annual dredging appropriation bill. Hopefully, we’ll see some of that money.”

For years, the Port has desired that dredging funding be allocated based at least partly on the value of the material shipped through the channels as opposed to strictly basing the allocation on tonnage, the current and historic method, according to commission president Jerry Gauthier. Manufactured goods, the likes of which are often shipped through port waters, often have high value and low tonnage compared to many raw materials.

“Another bill of interest that the congressman is cosponsoring,” Stiles said, “is the Harbor Fairness Act, which is a bill that would ask or require the Corps of Engineers to look at the way they appropriate the funding in those dredging appropriations and to look at economic value and strategic value in addition to just raw tonnage, which is the method they use now.”

The bill remains stuck in subcommittee.

Stiles also spoke about the new mitigation methods — particularly those that would require a greater amount of new land being built than current methods require — that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is using.

“In that energy bill that passed the House, the congressman was able to add an amendment to prevent the Corps of Engineers from using any funding from that appropriation to implement or enforce the implementation of the modified Charleston method. We’ve heard concerns from you guys, from parish governments, from other ports, about the modified Charleston method,” Stiles said.

“The modified Charleston method is the new method that the Corps of Engineers is implementing to determine the amount of mitigation in wetlands. Mitigation could cost three or four times what it was previously.”

Gauthier asked Stiles, “Is this the EPA flexing their muscles again?”

Stiles had no answer for that question, but he went on to say, “Your tax dollars would get chewed up by mitigation instead of the actual projects.”

In other news, Michael Lowe of the Corps recapped the upcoming dredging projects in the bay channel.

“Right now, we’re looking at somewhere in July, opening bids on that,” he said.

Also, Cindy Cutrera, economic developer for the port, reported the monthly metrics for port traffic.

“It appears that river traffic’s increasing a little bit. In April, 730 vessels came through port boundaries, and in May, 745, about a 2 percent increase,” she said.

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