Port of Brownsville lands $1.1M grant for cargo ship analysis

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Shown is the Brownsville Ship Channel looking east toward the Gulf of Mexico at the Port of Brownsville. (Courtesy photo)

A Port of Brownsville project analyzing how to make the port more accessible to bigger cargo ships has received an infusion of federal funds.

The office of U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-Brownsville, on March 22 announced the more than $1.1 million grant, part of $15.6 million in Community Project funding for the 34th Congressional District of Texas. The money will go toward the port’s Vessel Suitability Analysis and Feasibility project, which the port said is essential for strategic planning of infrastructure improvements.

“The project will evaluate a range of nonstructural and structural options to support and increase the port’s capacity to accommodate larger vessels efficiently and safely, contributing to a greater economic impact,” the port said.

Container ships have gotten steadily bigger over the last several decades, forcing ports around the world to upgrade their infrastructure in order to be able to handle the larger ships and, in doing so, remain competitive with other ports.

Brownsville’s port last year launched phase one of a project to deepen its 17-mile ship channel to 52 feet from the existing 42 feet in order to accommodate larger vessels.

Brownsville Navigation District Chairman Esteban Guerra said the analysis and feasibility project is in keeping with the port’s ongoing effort to “sustain safe, reliable and effective infrastructure so that businesses continue to thrive.”

He cited Gonzalez’s “steadfast dedication to the port, our industries and the communities we serve” and credited him with repeatedly securing crucial funding for big infrastructure projects.

Among the big infrastructure projects under way at the port in addition to the deepening project — officially known at the Brazos Island Harbor Channel Improvement Project — is construction of a 118-acre business park to support the port’s industrial and manufacturing tenants.

In announcing the grant, Gonzalez said it was part of a long-awaited “final tranche … of funding bills” that the House finally managed to pass, in doing so avoiding a “devastating and unnecessary partial government shutdown and (providing) vital funding for our region.

“I am proud to deliver millions of dollars to improve roads and drainage, support local law enforcement and increase economic development in South Texas,” he said.

On March 6, the House approved legislation to fund approximately 30% of the federal government for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. The legislation funnels $459 billion to the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, Transportation, and Veterans Affairs.

It also funds the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration through the end of the fiscal year. The Senate passed the legislation on March 8, hours before a partial government shutdown was to begin.