Lawmakers want to explore deepening Fourchon

07 26, 2012 by Houma Courier

A U.S. Senate committee backed a resolution Wednesday asking the federal government to consider the benefits of increasing Port Fourchon’s depth.

Over the past several years, local officials have been pushing to change the port’s authorized depth from 26 feet to possibly 35 feet to 40 feet, or even more.

Paying for the project has been among the challenges, even though the port’s boosters contend that altering its depth could expand its business by allowing it to service a more diverse array of vessels and rigs, including both imports and exports.

The new resolution sponsored by U.S. Sen. David Vitter, a Metairie Republican, requires that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers review two decades worth of operations reports to justify deepening the port.

It was unanimously approved by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and requires no additional congressional action.

During the hearing, Vitter told his colleagues that Port Fourchon is the nation’s largest offshore energy hub, with 18 percent of the nation’s oil and gas supply being channeled through its facilities.

“Keeping the depths at proper levels is absolutely critical to allow the port to continue servicing our nation’s energy economy and the many Louisiana jobs associated with it,” he said.

About 270 large supply vessels traverse the port’s channel each day, and more than 250 companies use the port as a base of operation.

It handles significant traffic from offshore Gulf oil platforms and drilling rigs as well as the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port pipeline.

Vitter added that the depths being used to support these interests are outdated, and his resolution is a “huge step forward to keeping Port Fourchon viable so it can keep our economy moving.”

Chett Chiasson, executive director of Port Fourchon, said the resolution is the first step in a very long process, but it was needed to better position the port to leverage deepwater oil and gas activity.

“Additionally, deeper drafts would also allow for better oil spill response capabilities for the Gulf Mexico,” Chaisson said.

Port Fourchon is Louisiana’s southernmost port, and its primary service markets are domestic deepwater oil and gas exploration, drilling and production in the Gulf of Mexico.

The port services more than 90 percent of the Gulf of Mexico’s deepwater oil production, according to the federal government’s own statistics.