Port Corpus Christi & the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sign a Project Partnership Agreement

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PPG PSM Member, The Port of Corpus Christi and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have officially signed a Project Partnership Agreement (PPA) to move forward the construction of the La Quinta Channel extension. The signing ceremony was held at the Congressman Solomon Ortiz International Center, Tuesday, October 13. The PPA was signed by Port Chairman Ruben Bonilla and Col. David C. Weston, Commander-Galveston District. Also attending was Mr. Arthur Janecka, Deputy District Engineer for Project Management; Mr. Bill Wise, Chief, Project Management Branch; Ms. Cynthia Burke, Project Manager Corpus Christi Ship Channel; and Mr. Abel Deleon, Corpus Christi Area Resident Engineer. “Extending the La Quinta Channel will support the realization of La Quinta Trade Gateway, the port’s most important diversification project.” Said John LaRue, Executive Director Port Corpus Christi. 

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Corpus Christi Ship Channel Project was authorized by Section 1001(40) of the Water Resources Development Act of 2007. The Authorized Project includes the following navigation and ecosystem restoration features:

 

  • Extending La Quinta Ship Channel approximately 1.4 miles at -39’ Mean Low Tide (MLT).
  • Widening the ship channel to 530’ from Port Aransas to the Harbor Bridge.
  • Deepening the ship channel from -45’ MLT to -52’ MLT.
  • Adding 200’ wide Barge Shelves at -12’ MLT across Corpus Christi Bay.
  • Constructing ecosystem restoration features to protect endangered species, wetlands and seagrass.

 

The La Quinta Channel extension is approximately 1.4 miles with a bottom width of 400 feet and depth of approx. 40’ (39’ plus 2’ advanced maintenance plus 2’ allowable over-depth), and ship turning basin.  (See below brief information and history of the project).

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La Quinta Channel Extension and Ecosystem Restoration Corpus Christi Ship Channel - Channel Improvement Project

 

Project Background:

 

The Port of Corpus Christi Authority (Port) has been seeking needed channel improvements since soon after final achievement of the 45’ Project, a 1968 Congressional Authorized project, not completed until 1989.  The initial study for this generation of proposed improvements was in response to a congressional resolution adopted August 1, 1990, by the Committee on Public Works and Transportation, U.S. House of Representatives, where it stated: “….to determine the feasibility of modifying the Corpus Christi Ship Channel, with particular emphasis on the La Quinta Channel… in the interest of commercial navigation and related purposes.”

 

After having all Feasibility Reports and Environment Impact Statements completed and approved in 2004,  the project for navigation and ecosystem restoration, Corpus Christi Ship Channel (CCSC), Texas (Project), was authorized by Section 1001(40) of the Water Resources Development Act of 2007. The Authorized Project included the following navigation and ecosystem restoration features:

 

  • Extending La Quinta Ship Channel approximately 1.4 miles at –39’ MLT.
  • Widening the CCSC to 530’ from Port Aransas to the Harbor Bridge.
  • Deepening the CCSC from -45’ MLT to –52’ MLT.
  • Adding 200’ wide Barge Shelves at –12’ MLT across Corpus Christi Bay.
  • Constructing ecosystem restoration features to protect to endangered species, wetlands and seagrass.

 

Extending the La Quinta Ship Channel will enhance the region’s economy by providing channel access to a proposed multi-purpose dock and container handling facility.  Widening the CCSC will increase maritime safety and reducing costly vessel delays.  Deepening will reduce transportation costs by allowing vessels with deeper draft to access the port. Barge lanes will increase separation between barges and ships, further reducing delays and increasing safety.  And the ecosystem restoration components will protect and enhance several important habitats.  In addition, the improvements include constructing approx. 1000 acres of shallow water habitat using dredged material.

 

In 2009, the U.S. Congress approved a Fiscal Year 2009 Omnibus Appropriations bill including $1,148,000 in construction general funding toward the Corpus Christi Ship Channel - Channel Improvement Project.  This appropriation enabled the authorized channel improvements to move forward to the construction phase of the project and allow the Port and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) to enter into an a Project Partnership Agreement (PPA) for construction.

 

La Quinta Channel Extension and Ecosystem Restoration:

 

Since there was a significant delay between completing the required studies and the Project’s Congressional authorization, the proposed improvements are required to be re-evaluated to confirm they are still in the Federal interest.  Portions of the Authorized Project may be re-evaluated and PPAs executed for designated separable elements of the Project.  In order to expedite the process for the La Quinta Channel Extension, the Port chose to first have the COE re-evaluate the extension.  The deepening and widening channel improvement re-evaluations are projected to be complete in early 2010. 

 

With the re-evaluation clearly supporting the originally authorized plan, the COE and Port staff finalized negotiations for a PPA to construct the La Quinta Extension and related Ecosystem Restoration feature of the project. The Extension will provide deep water access to over 1000 acres of PCCA property that is fully permitted for the construction of a container terminal and a 3800 linear foot multi-purpose ship dock facility supported by rail, highway, barges and ships.  This intermodal terminal could potentially handle over 1,000,000 TEU’s and several million tons of dry and project cargo per year, including military equipment, wind turbine components and cargo from the recently announced construction of the TPCO America steel pipe mill sited adjacent to the terminal.  The initial phase of terminal construction and operations will contribute to job creation and economic recovery to a region that recently experienced a severe decline in its economic condition due to the BRAC closure of Naval Station Ingleside.  The terminal project has the potential to create 2500 highly skilled and high-wage jobs during the project’s initial phase providing some relief to the significant number of jobs affected by the base closure.

 

The primary features to be constructed under this Project Partnership Agreement are: 

 

  1. The La Quinta Channel extension, approximately 1.4 miles with a bottom width of 400 feet and depth of approx. 40’ (39’ plus 2’ advanced maintenance plus 2’ allowable over-depth), and ship turning basin.

 

  1. A Beneficial Use Site just south of the channel extension and turning basin creating nearly 200 acres of shallow-water habitat using dredged material.

 

  1. An Ecosystem Restoration Feature, located near Ingleside-on-the-Bay, Texas, consisting of approximately 2,400-foot of rock breakwater and shoreline revetment to protect and enhance approximately 45 acres of existing seagrass habitat.

 

Project costs are shared between the Port and Federal government. Total estimated cost of the navigation features are projected to be $74,320,000 with Port’s cost share estimated at $15,074,000; while the estimated cost of the ecosystem restoration feature is projected to be $8,906,000 with the Port’s share being $3,117,000. 

 

Timeline to Construction and Completion:

Soon after execution of the PPA, the COE will advertize a construction contract to build dredge material placement area 14 on the Port’s La Quinta property.  Contract award is anticipated before the end of this calendar year.  The site of this temporary dredge material placement area is the location of the future vegetated green space buffer area between the La Quinta Trade Terminal and the City of Portland. Federal funds to bid and award the initial construction contract were made possible through the granting of ARRA stimulus funds.  Future construction contracts will be formulated based on the amount of annual federal appropriations and/or stimulus funding. Completion of work identified under this PPA is projected be by 2012.