“What’s New With CRA” Blog: Keeping Up With The Sabine-Neches Navigation District | 05/19/2015
By: Laci Theriot
The Sabine-Neches Waterway contains a triangular body of the Port of Beaumont, Port of Port Arthur, and Port of Orange, as well as the mouth of the Neches River. Locals call it the “highway of cargo,” but to all of us it is an American asset. The waterway supports the economy of Jefferson County and is home to one of the biggest petrochemical refineries in country. The leaders of this great empire are known as the Sabine-Neches Navigation District- the non-federal sponsor for the main channel of the waterway. It is their responsibility to oversee the upcoming channel improvement project- a vision that has been over 50 years in the making and entails deepening the channel to 48 ft.
As a governing authority, they liaise with key stakeholders and partners such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, terminals along the channel, as well as the Coast Guard, and private industry. The commerce in this area is growing rapidly, and companies such as Cheniere LNG are thriving with new expansion. Therefore, CRA has been highly involved by advocating the “dredging your docks” campaign to the region. In 2013, over one hundred representatives attended the first annual “Dredge Your Docks” conference created to raise awareness for maintenance dredging in Beaumont. “This year, we hope to have an even larger audience attend and continue our outreach,” said Chris Ransome, President of CRA.
We had some time to talk to Clayton Henderson, General Manager of the Navigation District, and here is what we learned:
1. How has the Sabine-Neches Waterway been influential to Gulf Coast Commerce?
“The Sabine-Neches Waterway is the economic engine for the 5-county region, and a major component of the Gulf Coast petrochemical complex that supplies 50%+ of the nation’s fossil fuels. Annually, the waterway generates $32+ billion in US GDP, $18+ billion in personal income, and more than 288,000 permanent jobs. It truly is American’s Energy Gateway!”
2. What role does SNND play during the dredging process (both private and federal projects)?
“SNND is the designated Sponsor of the waterway to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. That means we are the champion for and liaison to USACE for Industry interests on the waterway. If a private firm needs to dredge their docks, they need a permit from USACE to dredge-up the material, and SNND is the agency that permits the placement of the material into the DMPAs by providing access the the Dredge Material Placement Areas. If USACE needs to dredge the the federal ship channel, SNND provides planning input to the dredge contracts, ensuring USACE creates opportunities for private docks to “piggy back” on the federal dredger by taking advantage of the geographically available, federally hired dredge plant.”
3. SNND is the non-federal Sponsor of the Sabine-Neches Waterway Channel Improvement Project. When will the project likely kick off and what are the next steps of this milestone?
“As you know, the project to deepen the Sabine-Neches Waterway from 40 to 48 feet was approved by Pres. Obama last summer, in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act 2014. Now, we are seeking the federal appropriations necessary to begin digging. In the interim, SNND must update the economic review of the project, and complete the Partnership Agreement with USACE. The partnership agreement is what will govern who manages what and who pays for what, between USACE and SNND, for the next 50 years. It takes many months to complete this agreement and we believe it will happen sometime in FY16. If we are successful at maintaining this timeline, dredging could begin as early as FY17.”
4. CRA and Orion Marine Group have recently brought the “Dredging Your Docks” conference series to the Southeast Texas region. How has this message impacted maintenance or operations along the waterway?
“I think the “Dredging Your Docks” conference has been integral in informing Industry players about the ever-changing nature of private dredging along the Sabine-Neches Waterway. Additionally, DYD has been instrumental in disseminating the new sediment testing protocol that USACE has been rolling out over the past two years. CRA is always on the forefront of the sediment and environmental effort along the Sabine-Neches Waterway, and has proved time and again to be a significant resource to the District in hydrographic and environmental matters.”