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Alabama State Port Authority, Army Corps of Engineers sign formal agreement for ‘historic’ Port of Mobile expansion project

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Alabama State Port Authority have now officially entered into a Project Partnership Agreement to deepen and widen the Mobile Harbor Ship Channel by late 2024 or early 2025.

The agreement was signed on Wednesday by Colonel Sebastien P. Joly, commander of the Corps’ Mobile district, and John C. Driscoll, who assumed his role as director and CEO of the Port Authority the first of this month.

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) praised the announcement.

“Today’s signing of the Mobile Harbor Project agreement is yet another milestone in the process of the deepening and widening the Port of Mobile,” Shelby said in a statement.

The harbor channel construction project, which will allow for more goods to be shipped and sold through Alabama’s seaport, is financed by a split of 75% federal funds and 25% state-sponsored funds.

This was made possible by federal legislation through which Shelby increased the federal government’s share of funding for deep draft ports from 50% to 75%.

Shelby has also been credited with securing the federal funding portion of this specific project through his leadership as chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations. Alabama State Port Authority Director Emeritus Jimmy Lyons called Shelby a “champion” of the port.

The Corps in February fully allocated that federal funding — $274,300,000 — for the Port of Mobile in its Fiscal Year 2020 (FY2020) Work Plan, officially providing the resources to dredge Alabama’s premier port. The funding – which accounts for the full federal share of the project cost – initiated the complete construction of the deepening and widening of the navigation channel.

“The completion of this historic project will transform Alabama, expanding economic opportunities throughout our state and the region,” Shelby added. “Further, the modernization of Alabama’s primary port will increase the United States’ competitiveness in the global market. I am extremely grateful for the support of the Army Corps of Engineers and the work of the Alabama State Port Authority to ensure that this project, which I have spent years championing, crosses the finish line with ease.”

The state portion of the funding was secured by the Rebuild Alabama Act of 2019.

“Beyond the impact on the local and state levels, the Port of Mobile serves as a catalyst to our nation’s competitive position in the global economy. I have been proud to support The Mobile Harbor Modernization project, and I look forward to watching the growing benefits our Port will have in the years to come,” Governor Kay Ivey said in a statement. “The Port of Mobile is now poised to become a major hub for export activity, and this is yet another giant step forward in supporting our industries in the Americas and beyond. Alabama can be proud of the powerful economic tool that is our own Port of Mobile.”

Federal authorization for the project was granted last year. The Corps and the Port Authority entered into the Mobile Harbor Pre-Construction, Engineering and Design Agreement shortly thereafter.

The Corps anticipates the initial construction phase of the project to be awarded in the fall of 2020. The project is anticipated to occur over six construction phases, with a targeted project completion by late 2024 or early 2025. The total estimated cost is $365 million.

The completed project will consist of deepening the existing Bar, Bay, and River Channels to a depth of 50 feet; incorporating minor bend easing at the double bends in the Bar Channel; widening the Bay Channel from 400 feet to 500 feet from the mouth of Mobile Bay northward for three nautical miles to provide a two-way traffic area for passing; and expanding the Choctaw Pass Turning Basin by 250 feet to the south at a depth of 50 feet.

“The Mobile Harbor project leverages shore-side port investments that provide shippers cost competitive transportation solutions in an ever changing and increasingly competitive global economy,” stated Driscoll. “I’m deeply appreciative of the groundwork my predecessor, Jimmy Lyons, and the Authority’s team, delivered to realize this important project.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn