Congress authorises expansion of the Houston Ship Channel

The Houston Ship Channel and the public and private terminals along it moved nearly 285 million tons of cargo in 2019, 47 million tons more than any other US port

The Houston Ship Channel is the US' busiest waterway and is set to be expanded following congressional funding [Credit: Port Houston]

Congress have passed the 2020 Water Resources Development Act, meaning the busiest waterway in the nation is now authorised to expand.

The Houston Ship Channel was recently ranked the top US Port in total waterborne tonnage, as well as averaging 50 deep-draft vessels every day. After a 6% increase in tons of cargo moved via the channel, planning for the deepening and widening of the Houston Ship Channel has been Port Houston’s top priority for nearly a decade.

The Houston Ship Channel expansion, known as Project 11, will widen and deepen the channel for safer and more efficient navigation of vessels calling the port. The project also claims to include new environmental features to benefit channel users, such as improving regional air quality by increasing the efficiency of vessel movements, and creating new bird islands and oyster reefs as part of the project.

Expansion of the channel has been supported by non-federal sponsor Port Houston, working in partnership with the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

Along with Port Houston’s eight public terminals, there are more than 200 private facilities along the channel.

“The authorization to widen and deepen the Houston Ship Channel is big for our region, the state of Texas, and our nation,” said Executive Director Roger Guenther. “It is big for economic prosperity and growth of industry that is served by the busiest waterway in the country... but our work is not done.”

Guenther explained that after WRDA is enacted, the next step in the project delivery process will be to secure a ‘New Start’ designation from the Administration and discretionary funding from the Corps of Engineers. “Over the next couple of months, our teams will be advocating to achieve this next benchmark,” he said.

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