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Army Corps of Engineers allocates final slice of funding for historic Port of Mobile dredging

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) on Monday announced that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has allocated $274,300,000 for the Port of Mobile in its Fiscal Year 2020 Work Plan, officially providing the final resources needed to dredge Alabama’s seaport.

The funding – which accounts for the full federal share of the project cost – will initiate and complete construction of the deepening and widening of the navigation channel. Following the required preliminary steps, construction is expected to begin toward the end of this year.

Through federal legislation, Shelby increased the federal government’s share of funding for this type of project from 50% to 75%. Additionally, Shelby in the FY 2020 appropriations process secured the necessary funds to make the allocation possible.

“Today marks a historic moment and victory for Mobile and the entire state of Alabama. Over the last decade, I have been advocating for the deepening and widening of the Port of Mobile,” Shelby said in a statement.

“The completion of this transformative project is expected to stem immeasurable economic growth and will position Alabama and the Gulf Coast region for success for generations to come,” he concluded. “I am grateful to the Army Corps of Engineers for allocating the full federal share of the project cost and to the state of Alabama for providing the required matching funds. I look forward to its completion and the resulting impact.”

In December, the FY 2020 Energy and Water Development appropriations bill was signed into law as part of H.R.1865 and included a new regional dredge demonstration program for the central Gulf Coast. The program, administered by the Corps, was created to explore innovative ways of executing dredging in a logical and sequenced manner to seek efficiencies and cost savings and minimize disruptions to critical construction and maintenance dredging requirements across the nation. This Shelby negotiated provision, as detailed Monday when the Corps released the funded projects, was the key to getting the project fully funded.

Jimmy Lyons, director and CEO of the Alabama State Port Authority, said in a statement, “Senator Richard Shelby clearly understands the economic value of seaports. His leadership in delivering an innovative and efficient program to deepen and widen Alabama’s only seaport is a game changer. We are extremely grateful for his leadership. This innovative program generates efficiencies in the Corps civil works program, affirms our project’s value to the state and the nation, and delivers the federal funding to complete our project much faster than anticipated.”

The construction will include the expansion of the Port of Mobile from its current dimensions – 45 feet deep and 400 feet wide – by deepening the existing bar, bay and river channels by five feet to a project depth of 50 feet. This will include additional depths for wave allowances, advanced maintenance and allowable overdepth for dredging. Following construction, the total depths of the channels will be 56, 54 and 54 feet, respectively. The project also includes widening the bay channel by 100 feet for three nautical miles.

The Rebuild Alabama Act, which was signed into law by Governor Kay Ivey last year, secured the state portion of the funding for the project.

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

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