American Press, Lake Charles, Louisiana, on port of Lake Charles
American Press, Lake Charles, Louisiana, on port of Lake Charles:
Approval of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act by the U.S. Senate on Thursday ensures a vital lifeline for Southwest Louisiana’s economy.
Passed by the Senate 91-7, the legislation contains language that will guarantee that money collected on imported shipping cargo will be used for its intended purpose — dredging and maintaining shipping channels across the country.
That’s critical for our area. The Calcasieu Ship Channel is the major artery for our economy’s heartbeat. When it is clogged — specifically, when silt causes its authorized 40-foot depth to be reduced — it produces an inefficient drag on the Port of Lake Charles and the petrochemical industry, which remains the No. 1 sector for jobs and potential growth in our corner of the state.
U.S. Charles Boustany Jr., R-Lafayette, has long been a critic of Congress’ annual raid on the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. His Realize America’s Maritime Promise Act, aka RAMP Act, sought to put a stop to these shenanigans. His legislation was eventually folded into the Water Resources Act.
Port of Lake Charles Executive Director Bill Rase said the port needs $15 million to $20 million annually to keep the Calcasieu Ship Channel dredged to its proper depth. When it’s not, shippers and customers have to lighten the load of their cargo, increasing their costs.
U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., labeled the WRRDA one of the most important bills for Louisiana that Congress will pass this year. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., points out that 25 percent of the United States’ waterborne commerce transits through Louisiana’s shipping channels.
But few ports nationally have the impact of Lake Charles, which is fast approaching ranking in the nation’s top 10 for cargo.
Not only do Citgo and Phillips 66 complexes, which rank in the top dozen gasoline refineries in the country, depend on a fully functional Calcasieu Ship Channel, but also the existing liquefied natural gas plants at Hackberry (Sempra) and south of Lake Charles (Lake Charles Energy) and proposed LNG facilities (Magnolia) and Southern California Telephone and Energy.
The Water Resources Reform and Development Act needs only President Obama’s signature to be enacted and correct a long-standing wrong. That should be a given.