SULPHUR — The much anticipated dredging of the West Calcasieu Port’s west barge basin
should be complete by August, the port’s top official recently told the Sulphur Kiwanis Club.
Director Lynn Hohensee said the $2.31 million project is being funded primarily through state
and federal monies with $50,000 each from the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury and the city of
Mike Hooks, Inc. of Westlake, lowest bidder for the project, has started preparing the area for
dredging. The company is building a levy at the area selected to receive the dredge material
and the installation of a concrete revetment along the west basin’s shoreline began last month.
“The dry weather we’ve been having is very critical to preparing the spoils reception area,” he
Hohensee said the dredging is necessary for the continuation of port operations.
“If barges are pushed any farther out (away from the shoreline as the result of silting), they’ll be
in the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway,” he said.
Hohensee said the West Cal Port is in a prime location equidistant from Houston and New
“We’re strategically located for what we call brownwater port activity,” he said. Brownwater
ports are shallow and bluewater ports are deep water.
The Port of Lake Charles is the 11th largest bluewater port in the United States.
There are five ports in the southwest corner of Louisiana — the Port of Mermentau, Port of Lake
Charles, West Cameron Port, West Calcasieu and the Port of Vinton.
Hohensee said that the five ports have joined to form the Southwest Louisiana Port Network.
Over the past years, representatives from each the five ports have met every few months to
share information and find ways to lobby for the good of the whole.
The network is a smaller version of the Ports Association of Louisiana, which lists 31 ports as
“The association helps carry the collective voice and is working with the Legislature and the
Department of Transportation and Development,” Hohensee said.
He said the influx of money is badly needed for all ports in Louisiana.
“There has been a lot of talk about widening the Panama Canal to accommodate containerized
vessels,” Hohensee said.
This would allow for cargo to be moved directly to market without having to be brought in on the
East Coast and then sent by truck or train to the central portion of the United States.
He said Louisiana ports could benefit from this move if funding was available. According to
Hohensee, Louisiana ports need an infusion of $850 million in state monies to address
infrastructure needs and channel improvements.
“And the till is about empty now,” he said.
The Calcasieu River Channel is at 38 feet. Hohense said it needs to be at 42 feet to
accommodate ships’ entire loads. “They’re bringing in about 80 percent of their loads now,” he
Hohensee noted that Texas has just injected $1 billion into its ports.
“We’re losing $47 million in tax revenue because of that investment,” he said. “We don’t have
funding from Baton Rouge that puts us on par with Texas.”
Hohensee said that according to an economic study done recently, for every $1 the state
invests in ports, there is a $6 return in taxes jobs and benefits.
“It’s a proven value. It’s not a risk,” he said.
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