Port of Lake Charles and Institute Partner in Dredge Material Study

09 21, 2017 by Water Institute of the Gulf

BATON ROUGE, La. (September 20, 2017) –The Water Institute of the Gulf is embarking on a new study with the Port of Lake Charles to identify sediment sources in the Calcasieu Ship Channel and to find the best way to use channel dredged material to protect critical infrastructure at the port.

The $360,000 contract approved by the port in late August tasks the Institute with better understanding how sediment moves through the Calcasieu Ship Channel and to evaluate alternative locations to find long-term and realistic dredge disposal sites. Primarily due to the increase in liquified natural gas, it’s predicted that ship traffic will double by 2023.

“With close to $120 billion in projects coming to our area, it is absolutely critical that we ensure the long-term viability of the Calcasieu Ship Channel,” said Bill Rase, Port of Lake Charles executive director. “The Port of Lake Charles is eager to partner with the Water Institute and other area industry leaders to explore cost-effective solutions. The rising cost of dredging and more specifically the lack of necessary areas for the placement of dredged material are the two items that can strangle the development of “America’s Energy Corridor.”

“The Institute is honored to partner with the Port of Lake Charles and its many stakeholders,” said Justin Ehrenwerth, President and CEO of Water Institute. “We look forward to bringing the best science and analysis to this project and working toward generating solutions for the challenges facing the port.”

The Calcasieu Ship Channel must be dredged yearly to ensure that it meets the 400-foot-wide and 40-foot-deep federally mandated requirements. It’s estimated that the Port of Lake Charles will need to have 97 million cubic yards of disposal capacity for dredged material during the next 20 years. An additional seven to eight million cubic yards of dredged placement space will need to be found to accommodate new project construction. However, a 2010 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study only identified five million cubic yards of available disposal capacity which means new sites must be found.

“The Calcasieu River Ship Channel is essential for the Phillips 66 Lake Charles Refinery’s continued operation. We are concerned a permanent source of dredging funds and disposal plans are not identified to maintain the channel’s authorized depth,” said Richard G. Harbison, Phillips 66 Lake Charles Manufacturing Complex Manager.

“Its’s our hope this study will give us much needed information that helps us to provide proper funding to maintain the Lake Charles ship channel. A large number of jobs and businesses are tied to the continued viability of the channel,” said President of the Louisiana Chemical Association, Greg Bowser.

“Finding solutions to the unique issues the channel faces are critical to unlocking its potential. This study is an important first step in the future of industry in southwest Louisiana,” said Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association President, Chris John.

“The present expansions will easily place the Port of Lake Charles and the Calcasieu Waterway in the top nine most vital deep draft ports in the country. With an additional $70 billion in announced expansions and new facilities, the Port of Lake Charles and the Calcasieu Waterway will rank as one of the most important energy ports in the nation,” Captain Brett Palmer, president of the Lake Charles Pilots, Inc.

“The Lake Charles Harbor and Terminal District is the economic engine for Southwest Louisiana. Our community and state benefit from the revenue and jobs created by businesses that utilize the port facilities and the ship channel. Finding a stable funding solution for meeting the needs of the ship channel is imperative, and this study will provide valuable information to the port and its customers,” said State Senator Ronnie Johns.

“The Calcasieu Ship Channel is the "Energy Corridor" for America. As a region and a state, we need to make certain we adequately address the needs of the ship channel and identify a long-term financial solution to keeping it at the required depth. The results of the study will provide a plan for addressing the dredging and disposal of sediment,” said State Representative Mark Abraham.

“As LNG investment continues to grow, it will become increasingly important to develop sustainable solutions to dredging the channel,” said Caitlin Cain, Director, Louisiana Energy Export Association. “The unique joint-venture between the Water Institute of the South and the Port of Lake Charles helps ensure that the billions of dollars of planned investment for SW Louisiana will result in continued job growth and economic prosperity for Louisiana residents.”

Since 1962 the Port of Lake Charles has been the local sponsor of the Calcasieu River and Pass Project, acting on behalf of the state, and as such the port needs to find a reliable source of funding to pay for the required 25 percent of construction costs and 100 percent of real estate costs for rebuilding existing disposal sites and building new ones. Those costs are estimated to be about $79 million during the next 20 years, but will likely increase over time.

Doing the ground work to better define where sediment is moving in the channel and to identify long-term dredge disposal sites will help the port be able to maintain and improve a viable and economically vital shipping channel. A science-based plan will also help the port, acting on behalf of the state, to secure the funding necessary that will allow continuing construction of new coastal land through beneficial use of the dredged material which in turn helps provide better protection to industry and communities into the future.

About The Water Institute of the Gulf
The Water Institute of the Gulf is a not-for-profit, independent research institute dedicated to advancing the understanding of coastal, deltaic, river and water resource systems, both within the Gulf Coast and around the world. This mission supports the practical application of innovative science and engineering, providing solutions that benefit society. For more information, visit www.thewaterinstitute.org.