Supports allocation in budget for critical waterway

Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), who represents Texas’ 30th Congressional District, got a firsthand look at Houston Ship Channel transportation needs when she was briefed by representatives of the Port of Houston Authority, officials from maritime-related agencies, and local industry leaders on Houston Ship Channel matters as they relate to the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA).

Congresswoman Johnson, a member of the House Transportation Committee and chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, met with federal partners, including the US Army Corps of Engineers, US Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection, as well as some of the largest industrial users of the ship channel.

After the briefing, Johnson voiced her commitment to help meet the funding and policy needs to maintain the Houston Ship Channel.

“Today’s briefing helped to underscore how vital the Port of Houston is as a conduit for global trade and commerce,” Representative Johnson commented. “Similar to other economic hubs across our nation, the Port of Houston must expeditiously address significant dredging and infrastructure needs if it is to remain a catalyst for economic growth in the 21st century. I believe strongly the federal government has an inherent interest in ensuring our nation’s ports have the tools they need to remain competitive globally.”

PHA Chairman James T. Edmonds emphasized the Houston Ship Channel’s far-reaching importance: “It is a dynamic place that is a major economic engine for Houston, for Texas and for the United States,” he said.

PHA Acting Executive Director Wade M. Battles said, “For every couple of feet of draft that we are not able to provide to ships, we potentially lose commerce and economic viability. Dredging the channel has safety, financial and environmental impacts and affects our ability to compete in the world market.”

Describing the Houston Ship Channel as “a very efficient and effective waterway,” Capt. William Diehl, US Coast Guard, Houston-Galveston Sector Commander, said “The Coast Guard facilitates moving 100 ships and 400 tows daily through the channel.”

Jeffrey Baldwin, Director of Field Operations, Customs and Border Protection, said, “We recognize the enormous impact of the channel, and Customs and Border Protection works in partnership with industry to secure our port and facilitate trade.”

Berdon Lawrence, Chairman, Kirby Corporation, thanked Johnson for coming to Houston and said, “The Port of Houston has 120,000 barge moves each year. In these times, with more and more emphasis on the environment, I would like to point out that the barge industry can move more tons with much less fuel and air emissions and more safely than the other surface modes of transportation.”

Clyde Fitzgerald, President, South Atlantic and Gulf Coast District, International Longshoremen’s Association, pointed out the waterway’s tremendous impact on job creation. “About 8,000 people went through our hiring center last year,” he said.

One of the largest ports in the world, the Port of Houston is made up of the Port of Houston Authority and more than 150 private industrial companies along the Houston Ship Channel, a critical component of the regional and national economy. The Port of Houston ranks first in the US in foreign waterborne tonnage and second in overall total tonnage.