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CALLER TIMES: Hawley talks channel deepening with congressional leaders

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Corpus Christi , September 9, 2015 | comments

by Chris Ramirez of the Caller Times

Posted: September 9, 2015 6:23 PM

The head of Corpus Christi's port authority has been making the rounds with federal lawmakers pitching the merits of widening and deepening the Ship Channel.

Judy Hawley, who chairs the Port of Corpus Christi commission, met with U.S. Sen. John Cornyn on Wednesday in Houston to talk about the project.

Hawley said long-discussed plans to make the channel wider and deeper not only insures safe vessel traffic, it also better equips the port to handle larger ships. She hoped Cornyn, a member of the senate Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs and Global Competitiveness, would carry a message to Washington that the port needs federal help paying for the project.

In recent weeks, Hawley also has met on the issue with other members of the Texas congressional delegation, including U.S. Reps. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, and Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo.

"This area continues to grow, and our opportunities as an energy port are also growing," Hawley told the Caller-Times. "We see deepening and widening as more important. The urgency is there, perhaps even more so than a decade ago."

Years before the Eagle Ford Shale energy formation became the Coastal Bend's chief economic driver, port officials have long wanted to widen the channel to 530 feet from Port Aransas to the Harbor Bridge and also deepen the entire channel to 52 feet.

Water depth in most spots is about 45 feet.

The port has gotten authorization for the project, but does not have the estimated $300 million needed to do the work.

"It's important for our energy independence," Hawley said.

A record 8,528 vessels passed through the port in 2014, up from 6,870 the year before.

Port officials are forecasting a 2 percent decline in vessel traffic for 2015, but also project an increase in the tonnage of commodities that will pass through the port. That leads them to believe energy companies are using larger ships to move their products.

Twitter: @Caller_ChrisRam

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