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Neches River dredging to be a boon for Orange County


Last updated 9/30/2014 at Noon

David Ball

For The Record

The deepening and widening of the Neches River should also have positive benefits for Orange County.

The Sabine-Neches Navigation District announced last week the federal government will allow them to dredge its 65-mile-long ship channel in order to deepen the waterway by eight feet.

Gene Bouillion, director of the Port of Orange, said the Sabine River side of Orange County will be affected which intersects the Neches River. The section of the river from the Rainbow Bridge and the Veterans' Memorial Bridge to the Port of Orange will not experience much impact from the dredging, however. The draft will still be 30-feet deep.

The Port of Orange is used predominately for the displacing of barges and other marine equipment.

Bouillion said what the dredging will do for the Neches River and a 45-foot draft is the route will become more valuable for deep water ships. Currently the ship channel is 65 miles long, 40 feet deep and 400-to-700 feet wide now. The new waterway will be 48 feet deep and 73 miles long.

The dredging should take from 12 years to 15 years to complete. It is estimated 30,000 construction jobs will be created and nearly 80,000 jobs when completed.

The Port of Orange, though, owns property in Orange County that lies east of the Neches River that will benefit.

For instance, Enterprise Products has constructed the first segment of the Enterprise Product Aegis pipeline will run from Mont Belvieu to Orange County. They have nearly 1,800 acres on the Orange County side.

This 60-mile segment of 20-inch diameter pipeline is part of the 270-mile Aegis ethane pipeline that when complete will create a 500-mile header system that stretches from Corpus Christi to the Mississippi River in Louisiana.

The remainder of the Aegis pipeline will be completed in two phases. The next segment between Beaumont and Lake Charles, La. Is scheduled to be completed in the third quarter of 2015. The final segment from Lake Charles to the Mississippi River is expected to be completed by the end of 2015. Aegis will have a capacity expandable to 425,000 barrels per day.

“This is the driver behind development on the Orange County side of the Neches River,” he said.

Bouillion added Enterprise Products has a $180 million investment on the Orange County side of the Neches. Jefferson Refinery and the Maritime Administration, or MArAD also have a presence there.

MArAD, the marine division of the U.S. Department of Transportation, has a $32 million facility on the river. Additionally, a road has been built for access to the mothball fleet.

MarAD will do make-readies for ships- making repairs to ships owned by the federal government, stocking them and ensuring they're ready to go.

Each ship requires at least an eight-man crew to get underway for 80 ships.

Jefferson Refinery is situated on 200 acres on the Orange County side.

The Orange County Commissioners' Court gave the company a 10-year tax abatement, according to Bobby Fillyaw, director of the Orange County Economic Development Corporation.

Jefferson, however, will be making payments to the county in lieu of taxes called pilot payments. The first check due in January 2015 from the company will be for $270,000. Payments are scheduled to come in every January, every year.

Fillyaw said 85 new jobs will be maintained at a minimum at Jefferson. One to two ships per week are being loaded with refined crude oil products at Enterprise Products.

One hundred jobs will be created on the Orange County side of the river due to this activity in the next 12 to 24 months it is estimated.

Another benefit to the Neches River dredging Fillyaw pointed out is two ships will be allowed to pass each other at certain points in the river. Currently, a ship has to sit and wait for the other ship to pass before proceeding.

This means more cargo and ships will be moving along, including higher tonnage ships. This will also eliminated the need to lighten, or lightering, the load offshore so a ship's draft can make it through the channel.

“It will increase efficiency, tonnage while lowering shipping costs,” he said.

Another bonus is bottlenecks at the Port of Houston can be process on the Neches River. This will also lessen train and truck bottlenecks.

“It will help them by coming to the Neches River. They're not bound by the same traffic. They will have quicker distribution,” Fillyaw said.

Invista also bought the old Targa Dock and will start brining in butadiene on the Sabine River side of the port.

Fillyaw explained the dredging will be borne by Jefferson County taxpayers, but benefit the entire area.

Discussions about dredging began nearly 15 to 20 years ago to reach this point.


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