News

Kennison Re-Elected Port Board President

SULPHUR — Sulphur businessman Joseph R. “Dick” Kennison was reelected president of the West Calcasieu Port board of commissioners   during the port board’s October monthly meeting.

The term is for one year. The five-member   board also re-elected Wilmer Dugas as vice president and Tim Dougherty as secretary/ treasurer.

Kennison is a 46-year veteran of the forestry and lumber industry. He serves as chairman and chief executive officer for Sulphur-based Kennison Forest Products, a position he has held since 1997. Prior to that, he was president of Ken for Division of Elder Forest Products in Sulphur for 18 years.

Kennison’s extensive community service includes six years on the Sulphur City Council (serving twice as council chairman) and West Calcasieu Chamber of Commerce member (president in   2003). He has served as chairman of Chamber Southwest Board of Directors in 2008, Rotary Club of Sulphur, Care Help Inc. of Sulphur, Sulphur Industrial Development Board, West Cal Cam Hospital Finance Committee and IRB Board for the Lake Charles Memorial Hospital.

Currently, he serves on United Way of Southwest Louisiana board of directors, Care Help of Sulphur board of directors, the West   Calcasieu-Cameron Hospital finance committee, and a second term as president of the Sulphur Rotary Club.

Kennison was named the city of Sulphur Volunteer of the Year (2005), the Outstanding Service Award by the Habitat for Humanity (2002), the WCAC Citizen of the Year (2002), the YMBC President’s Award (1980) and the Rotarian of the Year (2011-2012).

He is a U.S. Air Force veteran (1966-1969) and Vietnam veteran (1968-1969).

West Calcasieu Port makes 11.5-acre Land Purchase

SULPHUR, La, Oct. 26, 2015 – West Calcasieu Port officials announced today that the port has completed the $1.5 million purchase of 11.5 acres of adjacent property to the facility on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.
“The additional property will increase port acreage to more than 200 acres,” said Lynn Hohensee, West Calcasieu Port director, “and it will expand the port GIWW waterfront by more than 700 linear feet, which the port will make available for lease to prospective tenants.”
Hohensee noted that the port expansion would not have been possible without the financial assistance via a $750,000 capital outlay grant from the Louisiana State Legislature.
“Most of the credit for procuring the capital outlay grant goes to Sen. John Smith, Sen. Ronnie Johns, Rep. Mike Danahay and the rest of our Southwest Louisiana delegation,” he added. “We believe these elected officials recognize the importance of the port expansion to our regional economic growth.

“With the expansion of our facility footprint, the port’s leadership team is better able to address the region’s growing demand for industrial acreage and waterfront access,” Hohensee explained.
He also emphasized that accommodating additional tenants is not the port’s only priority.

“A portion of the new property will be set aside for construction of a new port entrance road, which will improve port access and ease the amount of industrial traffic traveling through a nearby residential area,” Hohensee said.

“To reach the port’s current entrance, tenants, suppliers and visitors must travel through our nearby residential neighborhood,” he explained. “With a new entrance road, most of that traffic will be diverted onto port property before reaching the residential area.”

The West Calcasieu Port offers waterfront property on the GIWW as well as more than 100 of its 213 waterfront access acres available for leased development.

See the full-res map here.

Hohensee: Tenant Synergy a Strong Element of West Cal Port

The West Calcasieu Port currently has seven tenants. Port Director Lynn Hohense said they make up a family of tenants with mutually beneficial skills.

“Tenant synergy is a strong element of our culture at this port,” he said.

The oldest and largest, Devall Enterprises, provides fueling, towing, fleeting, barge cleaning, and diesel repair services and handles all of the waterway activities at the port.

Orion Marine Group (formerly F. Miller and Sons), a heavy civil marine contractor, recently negotiated a five-year lease agreement extension for its marine construction services, dredging, repair and maintenance salvage, underwater inspection and a dozen other marine services. The company has been with the port since 2009.

River Barge Works, with the port since 2013, specializes in cleaning dry barges. These are barges that ship petroleum coke, scrap iron, grains, other non-liquid-type products. They have been on board for about two years and they lease space on the barge basin. Also joining the port in 2013 was United States Environmental Services. They provide dry barge cleaning and wet barge cleaning and scraping. That year USES partnered with Tresco. Tresco scrapes the the bottom of barges and stores whatever chemicals it recovers in mobile storage facilities located on-site which are then shipped off for recycling.

In January of this year, Tauber Oil Co. come onboard. The company’s 30,000-barrel-capacity refueling barge supplies vessels on the Intracoastal Waterway with ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel.

The most recent addition to the port’s list of tenants is CEMEX Cement of Louisiana. The company currently provides concrete support across the Intracoastal for Sempra through contractor CBI.

Hohensee said there is a strong possibility of an eighth tenant by year’s end.

“And we’re looking for more,” he said.

West Calcasieu Port Director Lynn Hohensee is also Serving as Part-Time Director for the Port of Vinton

   Since January, Lynn Hohensee has served as director for the Port of Vinton, a shallow-water port that sits on 806 acres of land.

   Created in 1956, the port currently houses two tenants,   Dunham Price and Performance Blasting and Coating. That leaves 600 acres of property available for lease.

   Hohensee said the overall goal is for the port to   partner with private businesses as tenants in an effort to create employees in the community, grow the tax base and grow infrastructure and investment. While Vinton residents and some tenants are aware of the port, he said work is being done to make the port more known outside the city.

   “How do we bring that knowledge of our port and our availability and what we have to offer to prospects that want to got some jackpot progressive from,” he said.

   Because the Vinton port board “recognized that there’s growth coming to Southwest Louisiana,” Hohensee said that discussions soon began between him and Charles Broussard, port board member and former board president. Before Hohensee became port director, Broussard said the port president also acted as its director.

   “I kept saying to myself, ‘I can’t handle this job,’ ” Broussard said. “Finally, I told the board, we need to hire a port director part-time.”

   Hohensee has also been director of the West Calcasieu Port for the past nine years. He said both the Vinton and West Calcasieu   ports are smaller ports “that don’t have the revenue stream” that the Port of Lake Charles does.

   “So there’s a need to be   conscious of how you approach staffing,” Hohensee said. “The funding isn’t there to put together a full staff, and so contracting is the first step to go in that direction. As the port grows, it can expand its abilities to handle administration.”

   The port has a contract for a port attorney and an engineer. He said the Vinton city clerk assists the port with accounting activities.

   Hohensee said work was done to make sure there were no conflicts of interest between the Vinton and West Calcasieu ports. He said the ports in Southwest Louisiana have a “tremendously good working relationship and a synergy between them.”

   “Each port relatively has its own niche,” Hohensee said.

   Hohensee said the Port of Vinton is “an economic development engine” that has value in its   “considerable amount of land.” While the West Calcasieu Port is located close to the Intracoastal Waterway, it has a “tremendous limitation on land” available, with only 190 acres available, and about 40 percent of it being wetlands, he said.

   Hohensee describes the port as being “intermodal” because of its potential for transportation on water and land.

   “Our region is not just a oneport region,” he said.

   Some tracts of land have access to water via the Vinton   Navigation Channel, which feeds into the Intracoastal Waterway.

   “It is navigable; it’s not just like a drainage ditch,” he said. “Barges can move up and down it. One of our tenants, Dunham Price, has their own barge-loading facilities located here.”

   The port is also an industrial park, with a number of tracts available to tenants who don’t need waterfront access, Hohensee said.

   Hohensee said the “secret jewel” that the port has is that its location allows it to “equally service distance-wise” Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana. The port is also located about two miles off Interstate 10.

   Hohensee said part of his role as port director is to represent the port at the local, regional and state activities within the marine and transportation industries and with government entities like the city of Vinton, the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury and the state Department of Transportation and Development.

   Hohensee said he recently received word that a one-mile extension road will be built from the port to where La. 108 joins with Interstate 10. He said the Police Jury has funding support to build the road, but that the parish is working with the Army Corps of Engineers on wetland delineation. Construction on the access road could start as early as this fall or the winter of this year.

   “That is a tremendous enhancement for who are considering this port as a place to locate,” he said.

   Hohensee said the Vinton Navigation Channel has needs for dredging so the waterway is deep enough for safe navigation. He said he is working with the Army Corps of Engineering to dredge the mouth of the channel. He said he is working with a neighboring property owned by Gray Estate to use the dredged spoils that would be beneficial to the environment.

   Jerry Merchant, port board president, said there has been more activity at the port over the last two decades.

   “We have something that some areas don’t have; we actually have dry land.”

Poised for Growth: West Cal Port Ready, Williang, Able for Expansion

In a recent interview with the Daily News, West Calcasieu Port Director Lynn Hohensee and Port Board President Dick Kennison talked about how the port is situated to handle the massive industrial expansion going on all around it and how it got there.

The West Calcasieu Port is a shallow-water port located west of the Ellender Bridge in Hackberry, along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, two miles west of the Calcasieu River Ship Channel. It was formed in the mid-1960s by state legislative action.

Of the 190 acres that make up the port, about 40 percent is wetlands, according to Hohensee, leaving 60 percent usable.

In 2005, the port’s governing authority, the West Calcasieu Port Board Authority, realizing that much of their available land was under-utilized, commissioned a study to look at possible uses. The study recommended that a part-time marketing director be hired for the port. Hohensee said that in the first half of 2006, the board decided they needed more than a marketing director and he was hired in June of 2006 to serve on a part-time contract basis as overall director. Also hired that year were attorney Glen James, CPA Darla Perry, and Sulphur engineering firm Meyer and Associates.

“We were able to start getting the snowball rolling on growing the port,” he said.

A $50,000 grant from the Louisiana Economic Development helped fund a master strategic plan for the port, which gave the board an idea of where they wanted to be and where they wanted to go.

“We’re looking to revisit that plan soon to reflect changes,” said Hohensee. He said that at the time the study was commissioned, there were not the growth opportunities and potential that the region has now.

“From 2007 on we started to really develop and experience some growth out here,” said Hohensee. “Daily barge counts exceeding 100 became the norm in 2014.”

He said that Mike Devall with Devall Towing, which handles all waterway activity at the port, anticipates this growth will continue and that daily barges will double by 2020.

“We were doing 40 to 50 a day nine years ago,” said Hohensee. “Today we do between 100 and 130 barges a day.”

Barge counts aren’t the only indicator of growth. In 2007, the port’s net assets were pegged at $2.9 million and the operating budget was $128,287. By year’s end 2014, port assets totaled $10.4 million and the budget was $395,497.

“The fact that we have six ports and a robust pipeline network has helped attract industrial development,” said George Swift, President and CEO of the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance.

“Our research indicates we are the reigning leader nationally with $32 billion in projects currently underway and proposed projects for a combined $86 billion,” he continued, “The West Calcasieu Port is very important with its location on the Intracoastal Canal. They’ve been very aggressive in recruiting tenants and expanding, which helps the entire area.”

[if !supportLists]·         [endif]Swift said all six ports provide different services to different sectors.

“Our niche is not a cargo port for moving freight through,” said Hohensee. “Our niche – and it has evolved – is providing marine services like barge fleeting, marine construction, dry barge cleaning, wet barge cleaning and stripping, marine fueling and concrete production.”

There are currently several tracts of land available for lease at the port. One of them, a 40-acre tract of land, is used as a dredged spoils containment area. Hohensee said the land, which will eventually be available to lease, is a prime spot as it is right on the canal and already built up for construction.

The port receives no tax dollars. Funding is solely from lease agreements with the port’s seven tenants and water the port sells to them. The Carlyss Waterworks has a 6-inch water line that runs to the port and the port extended it to run to tenants.

The West Calcasieu Port Board is comprised of five members. Appointments are made based on recommendations from the Mayor of Sulphur, the Sulphur City Council, West Calcasieu Parish Police Jury members, the West Calcasieu Chamber of Commerce and the Building and Trades Council. Current members are President Dick Kennison, Wilmer Dugas, Tim Daugherty, Dave Aguillard and Scott Foreman.

“Dick has done a superb job of leading the board and that’s one of the things that makes my job easy,” said Hohensee. “It’s an incredibly progressive board that understands the path that we’re going and subscribes to the ideas that we bring them – not all of them. They challenge, and they question but we work it out. They are very supportive and they deserve a lot of the credit.”

“We don’t rubber stamp anything,” added Kennison.

The port also has a Tenant Committee which considers applications for leasing to see if the proposed business would fit well with the other tenants. Chuck Stutes with Meyer and Associates, Glen James, Kennison, Perry and Hohensee serve on the board.

“We take the fiduciary responsibility we have very seriously,” said Hohensee, “As well as our responsibility to maximize the port’s potential, our responsibility to our tenants and to be good neighbors.”

The port’s oldest tenant, Devall Enterprises, has a lease agreement with the port through 2037. Both Hohensee and Kennison said the importance of Devall Enterprises as a tenant cannot be overstated.

“Devall is the dog and everybody else there is part of the tail,” said Kennison. “Devall is almost exclusively responsible for everybody else being here as a result of their presence and reputation.”

[if !supportLists]·         [endif]On July 1, 2014, a ribbon cutting ceremony was held for a new $640,000 barge loading ramp. The 80,000-pound capacity ramp was funded by a significant grant from Devall Towing and is accessible by a 700-foot hard-surface road, The road and its related infrastructure were funded through two economic development grants from the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury totaling $352,000. Hohensee said the barge project would not have been possible without the funding support from Devall.

“This demonstrates the importance of public/private partnerships,” he said.

Hohensee said that supplemental funding for the port comes from grants from the City of Sulphur, the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury’s economic development fund, the Department of Transportation and Development’s (DOTD) Port Priority Fund and federal grants. The DOTD funded maintenance dredging on the barge basin in 2009 and an 800-linear-ft. extension and some expansion of the barge basin that was complete in 2012. The port also secured $3 million in bonds in 2013 that they use as matching funds in applications for capital outlay funding grants from the state.

Hohensee said watching the port grow has been like watching a child move from toddler to teen to adult. He said that he enjoyed his 28-year military career and 30-year career in the local petroleum industry.

“But I love my job now,” he said.

Hohensee also praised the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury.

“In my estimation, much of what is going on (with industrial expansion) starts with the Police Jury,” he said. “I have to give them all the credit for all the good things so far and for their stewardship and forward-thinking.”

“Calcasieu Parish will probably be a shining star for years to come,” he said.

Kennison Re-Elected West Calcasieu Port Board president

SULPHUR, La, Sept. 8, 2014 – Sulphur businessman Joseph R. “Dick” Kennison was re-elected president of the West Calcasieu Port board of commissioners during the port board’s monthly meeting on Sept. 2.

The term is for one year.  The five-member board also re-elected Wilmer Dugas as vice president and Tim Dougherty as secretary/treasurer.
Kennison is a 45-year veteran of the forestry and lumber industry. He currently serves as Chairman & Chief Executive Officer for Sulphur-based Kennison Forest Products, Inc., a position he has held since 1997. Prior to that, he was president of Kenfor Division of Elder Forest Products in Sulphur for 18 years.
Kennison’s extensive community service includes six years on the Sulphur City Council (serving twice as council chairman) and West Calcasieu Chamber of Commerce member (president in 2003).  He has served as chairman of the following organizations — Chamber Southwest Board of Directors in 2008, Rotary Club of Sulphur, Maplewood-Hollywood Lions Club, Knights of Columbus Council, Care Help Inc. of Sulphur, Sulphur Industrial Development Board, West Cal Cam Hospital Finance Committee and IRB Board for the Lake Charles Memorial Hospital.
Kennison has been named the City of Sulphur Volunteer of the Year (2005), the Outstanding Service Award by the Habitat for Humanity (2002), the WCAC Citizen of the Year (2002) and the YMBC President’s Award (1980)

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West Cal Port Unveils New Barge-Loading Ramp

A ribbon cutting event was held Tuesday afternoon at the West Calcasieu Port (WCP) for their new barge-loading ramp.

“The new state-of-the-art ramp could not come at a better time for our marine services port operations,” said Lynn Hohensee, port director. “Our aging existing barge loading ramp had experienced considerable wear and tear, including two major hurricanes, and was beginning to show its age. The new ramp allows us to accommodate a growing demand for the ramp services.”

The 190-acre West Calcasieu Port is located on the north shore of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway about two miles east of the Calcasieu River Waterway and just south of the City of Sulphur limits. The ramp is located on the shoreline of the port’s west barge basin.

The new 80,000-pound capacity ramp was funded by a significant grant from Devall Towing, the longest-standing tenant at the port. A 700-foot hard-surface road to the new ramp and related infrastructure was funded by two economic development grant from the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury totally $352,000.

Orion Marine Group, another West Calcasieu Port tenant, was the contractor for the project.

According to Hohensee, annual revenue from barge-loading ramp business has grown nearly 25-fold – from $2,750 in 2006 to $69,700 in 2013.

“Due to the rapidly growing oil and gas exploration activity in the marshlands of Southwest Louisiana, many oilfield services companies have turned to shallow-water barges as an excellent example of intermodal transportation,” he said. “The oilfield service companies use our ramp to drive their large service trucks onto barges at our port, and from there, the barges are moved by pushboats to locations in the marshlands where drilling activity is located.”

Growing pains along the West Calcasieu Port’s waterfront also necessitated the need to reposition the shallow-water port’s barge loading ramp facilities.

“Early in 2013, the port was able to expand its marine services to include wet-barge cleaning and stripping operations,” Hohensee said, “This was made possible with the addition of two new tenants – United States Environmental Services and TRESCO.”

“But, to adequately accommodate the new barge cleaning services, the barges needed to be positioned in such a way that they conflicted with the use of the port’s existing barge loading ramp,” he added. “Since Devall Towing provided barge fleeting support to both the barge loading ramp services and the newly-added wet barge cleaning/stripping services, they suggested that the port replace the existing barge loading ramp and position it at a new location. And they offered to fund the construction and installation of the new ramp.”

Hohensee emphasized that the new barge loading ramp project demonstrates the strong and long-lasting public-private partnership that exists between the WCP and Devall Towing. Mike Devall, owner of Devall Towing, stated Tuesday that his company’s longtime working relationship with the port and Hohensee has been “very smooth.”

“I would think there are few public entities in the state of Louisiana that can offer a better example of what can be achieved through the partnership of a port and its tenant,” said Hohensee.

New Barge Loading Ramp Under Assembly at the West Calcasieu Port

SULPHUR, La, Jan. 10, 2014– Assembly of a new barge loading ramp in the West Calcasieu Port west barge basin is underway underway and expected to be completed within a week.

The 190-acre West Calcasieu Port is located on the north shore of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway about two miles east of the Calcasieu River Waterway.

The new 80,000-pound capacity ramp was funded by a $640,000 grant from Devall Towing, the longest-standing tenant at the port. A 700-foot hard-surface road to the new ramp will be constructed in 2014 and is funded by a $250,000 economic development grant from the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury.

Orion Marine Group, another West Calcasieu Port tenant, is the contractor for the project.

“We expect to have the new ramp fully operational within a few weeks,” said Lynn Hohensee, port director. “The new state-of-the-art ramp could not come at a better time for our marine services port operations.

“Our aging existing barge loading ramp has experienced considerable wear and tear, including two major hurricanes, and has been showing its age,” he added. “The new ramp will allow us to accommodate a growing demand for the ramp services.”

Hohensee explained that due to the rapidly growing oil and gas exploration activity in the marshlands of Southwest Louisiana, many oilfield services companies have turned to shallow-water barges as an effective mode of transportation.

“The oilfield service companies use our ramp to drive their large service trucks onto barges at our port, and from there, they are moved by pushboats to locations in the marshlands where drilling activity occurs.”

Growing pains along the West Calcasieu Port’s waterfront also necessitated the need to reposition its barge loading ramp facilities.

“Early in 2013, the port was able to expand its marine services to include wet-barge cleaning and stripping operations,” Hohensee said. “This was made possible with the addition of two new tenants – United States Environmental Services and TRESCO.

“But, to adequately accommodate the new barge cleaning services, the barges needed to be positioned in such a way that they conflicted with the use of the port’s existing barge loading ramp,” he added. “Since, Devall Towing provided barge fleeting support to both the barge loading ramp services and the newly added wet barge cleaning/stripping services, they suggested that the port replace the existing barge loading ramp and position it at a new location – and they offered to fund the construction and installation of the new ramp.”

Hohensee emphasized that the new barge loading ramp project demonstrates the strong and long-lasting public-private partnership that exists between the West Calcasieu Port and Devall Towing.

“I would think there are few public entities in the state of Louisiana that can offer a better example of what can be achieved through the partnership of a port and its tenant,” he said.

Engineering support for the new loading ramp was provided by Meyer & Associates of Sulphur, the port’s engineer. The components of the new loading ramp were manufactured in Houston by King Fabricators, the company that constructed the Galveston, Texas, ferry ramps.

Hohensee said that the West Cal Port and its tenants offer a variety of specialized services that accommodate our regional marine operations community.

Located 12 miles south of Interstate 10 and just west of Highway 27, the West Calcasieu Port has 2,500 feet of waterfront property on the GIWW.

In addition to barge-fleeting operations and wet-barge cleaning/stripping services, port tenants also provide marine construction services, dry-barge cleaning services and diesel engine repair.

West Cal Port Unveils Entrance Sign

By Marilyn Monroe

Posted Sep. 6, 2013 at 9:14 AM
Updated Sep 6, 2013 at 9:17 AM

SULPHUR
There is a new sign at the entrance to the West Calcasieu Port. Port Director Lynn Hohensee, along with port board members, local officials and other dignitaries, unveiled that sign on Sept. 3.
“The port is very proud to have this sign. We have never had one at the entrance to our port,” said Hohensee. “It is practical and symbolic for us because the sign recognizes the growth we have experienced over the last four or five years at the West Calcasieu Port, and it has a practical application for the visitors who come into our port.”
Port board president Dick Kennison stated that the sign demonstrated to people that “there are a lot of things going on out here,” and that the port is “a viable economic entity in this area.”
Mayor Chris Duncan agreed that the sign will increase the port’s visibility.
“This will not only help the port but all of southwest Louisiana. It will assist in the marketing of the entire area,” said the mayor, who also praised Hohensee’s work with the port.

Click here to read the full article.

Q&A with LYNN HOHENSEE

By Bobby Dower
[email protected]

The West Calcasieu Port expanded recently to serve the needs of barge companies that use the facility. Port director Lynn Hohensee talked with the American Press about the port, its tenants and its future.

West Calcasieu Port director

American Press: What and who does the West Calcasieu Port service?

Lynn Hohensee: The West Cal Port was created by in the ’60s by an act of the state Legislature. It is a small-water port or I should say a shallow-water port. It’s on the Intracoastal Waterway abouthalfway between New Orleans and Houston. It’s located two miles west between the interchange between the Calcasieu River waterway and the GIWW (Gulf Intracoastal Waterway). It’s just off Highway 27.

It’s a small port. It’s only 190 acres totally within its footprint. We are a port that is committed to marine services. We’re not a cargo port that brings in cargo or sends cargo out. We’re really dedicated to helping out other people in the marine community do their jobs better. And basically we support our tenants who do that.

We’re a public entity. We have a fi ve-member board. The board members are nominated by fi ve different organizations and we’re committed to help growing three things: jobs, tax revenue and infrastructure development, the capital investment into growing the economy in our community and we consider our community the Southwest Louisiana fi ve-parish area.

The port has fi ve tenants now. They have a variety of services that they provide to the marine community. Our oldest and largest tenant is Devall Towing. The Devall family has been in Calcasieu and Cameron parishes over a half-century. You talk about a true, beautiful family, multigenerational, that’s in the business. They are a perfect example of small entrepreneurship doing well.

Our other businesses include Orion Marine Group. In 2006, they actually purchased — they are out of Houston — they purchased F. Miller Construction. Now the total company is under Orion Marine Group. And they are in marine construction work. They have been at the port since August of 2009. They are wonderful tenants.

Then two summers ago, we brought in a company from over by Gonzales, Louisiana on the (Mississippi River. It’s called River Barge Works. They specialize in cleaning dry barges. These are barges that ship petroleum coke, scrap iron, grains, other non-liquid-type products. They have been on board for about two years and they lease space on our barge basin.

Then the other two tenants that we’ve got came on board since the first of the year. It’s the United States Environmental Services. It’s a fairly large company. They operate in 17 states. They were brought on board and introduced to our port by Devall Towing. And they provide a service that is called wet barge cleaning and stripping. These are the barges that move wet liquid products, mostly hydrocarbon based or petrochemical based. There’s a different technique that’s used for cleaning dry barges than wet barges. Wet barge cleaning and stripping was a service that was provided previously over by Bollinger (Shipyard). When they pulled out of our community last year, it kind of left a void here.

So USES picked up that service and they are doing it out of our port and they have partnered with a company called Tresco which is a subsidiary for a company called ChemStar out of Houston. What they do is take the product — the bottom of the barrel if you will — on the bottom of the barges, they clean it up and strip it out and clean the barges up so the barges can be used for another product by Citgo or other Southwest Louisiana plants, whoever is the local customer at the time. Then they take that product and store it in mobile storage facilities that we have at our port and from there they ship it by tanker back to Houston to the manufacturers and it is recycled. So it’s a recycling prospect for us. So that’s how they generate their revenue stream.

We have those five tenants. We’re always looking for more. We’ve had to do some infrastructure improvements at our port to make the environment there possible for these existing tenants and our new tenants to grow and make a dollar.

Our port does not have any tax revenue. We have no (property) millage. We are completely sustained by the revenue streams from our tenants. While some people may find that surprising, in actuality probably half of the ports in the state of Louisiana — and there’s like 37, 38 ports — probably half of them have no millage, so they operate within the ability to generate their own income and sustain their own costs and grow their own infrastructure. Now that doesn’t say we don’t have other sources of income. We have received grants from the City of Sulphur, the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury, the state and the federal government. We have received two grants from the Port Priority Program that is run by the (Louisiana) Department of Transportation and Development and in 2009, we completed the maintenance dredging of our barge basin with the help of a $1.5 million grant from DOTD. That covered 90 percent of the construction cost and the port had to come up with the other 10 percent, plus all the cost for permitting and engineering.

As soon as we completed that in ’09, we applied for a second Port Priority Fund grant to do an 800-linearfoot expansion of our barge basin which included the moving of eight acres of dirt. We went about 11 feet below sea level and took all that dirt and moved it out. A $2.3 million grant from DOTD allowed us to complete that project. Again we had to come up with the other 10 percent for the cost of the construction and permitting as well as the engineering.

We’ve had that funding support. We’ve had some funding support post-hurricanes from Homeland Security and FEMA. That was very beneficial to us to get us back on our feet. We did have some damage out there.

But by and large, it’s a small port. It’s an open port in that it is not a TWIC (Transportation Worker Identification Credential) port. You are not required to have a TWIC card to come on our port. But there are portions of the port property that are TWIC access. We do have a security system and a security gate in place. The port is open from six in the morning until six at night. We close at night and on the weekend and on holidays, but we do have key-card passes for our tenants and our employees.

The thing about the port is that we do not work in a bubble. We are very closely in line with the Port of Lake Charles, the Port of Vinton, West Cameron and East Cameron ports and the Port of Mermentau. The six of us comprise the Southwest Louisiana Port Network. We meet on a quarterly basis, but we are constantly in touch with each other, referring leads, potential new tenants business back and forth. Obviously, the flagship for the community is the Port of Lake Charles and they are doing so well right now under Bill Rase’s tutelage. They have limited areas that they can provide support to and sometimes they run out of space or they get a certain customer doesn’t need deep water.

I’m not trying to minimize what you do, but would it be a simplified to say that West Cal Port is somewhat like a multi-faced truck stop?

(Laughter). In a very liberal sense, perhaps. We have our tenants. The provide their employers, they operate what they do there. Probably the biggest difference between us and the Port of Lake Charles is we have no staff. We have no office building. I’m a port director, I have been since June of ’06 on a contract, part-time basis. We have contract CPA support, we have a contract attorney and a contract engineer through Meyers and Associates. So, while we get no millage revenue we also run a very lean ship. Our expenses, we try to keep at a very minimum.

So if somebody was to drive out there and want to stop at the port offices, they couldn’t. Their initial effort to be introduced to the port is to call me and I operate with a cell phone, a laptop and a car. I’m highly mobile. It’s a beautiful relationship. It has worked out superbly for us because there will be a time down the road when this port will grow and expand and become more significant and a time when they may need a full-time staff support. I see that in the future for it. Obviously, it will be past my tenure. But I’m kind of that stop-gap person between what was before and what is going to be. It’s a great chapter and I’m having a lot of enjoyment. There’s a lot of reward in my workplace with the port.

We work closely with our Southwest delegation. They are very helpful in our efforts to become competitive with the rest of state for Capital Outlay funds. They are very supportive when we need legislation that needs to come forward that is beneficial to the marine community.

One perfect example is Senate Bill 122 this past session that was passed that modified and restructured the Infrastructure Tax Credit system that the state had in place previously for the ports. You had to have a project of five million dollars or more to qualify for it. In the past three years nobody qualified for it. So we were able to get that threshold lowered to 1.5 million dollars, largely through the work of the Port Association of Louisiana.

I think the people of Louisiana and Southwest Louisiana need to realize this state has a plethora of ports. You have your deep-water ports, you have your coastal ports, you have your inland ports and you have your emerging ports. All four categories are represented in the membership of the Port Association of Louisiana, which is our main communicative arm working with Baton Rouge and the Legislature and the Governor’s Mansion and everything else. These ports work very well together. … Without the ports, a lot of what Louisiana is today would not be here.

What was the need for the expansion and how has the expansion helped the port?

The barge basin has been there for a long time. After the hurricane it was in bad shape. So in ’06, we applied for funding to get capital and finally we were able to complete in ’09 the maintenance dredging. Before barges were being parked better than a hundred yards from the shoreline because it was so shallow.

Because of silting up?

Yep. Soil coming off the shoreline and silting coming off the waterway. Plus, that was enhanced with the impact of the hurricane. Once we got that completed, we did the concrete revetment along the shoreline to firm that up and returned the basin to an 11-foot depth. We were then able to identify, and we did some research, we found that this area of the state and this was in ’09 before any of the announced growth and expansion in the economy, we did some polling and there was a plea for a need for shallow-water barge basin support in our region and it was on the verge of getting ready to grow. And our main tenant, Devall Towing, had a role in our research. So we made the decision to expand that barge basin. We had the capability.

With the help of the DOTD Port Priority funding money, we were able to put that in place. We went out for bids in 2010 and were able to secure the services of Apollo Environmental Company — they were the most competitive bid, I didn’t say the lowest bid, but they were the most competitive bid — and they were the contractor and we completed that work this spring. And the final steps of expanding that barge basin, and that included eight acres, four of which were determined to be wetlands was done this spring.

One of the problems we incurred with the plans to expand were those four acres, we knew they were wetlands and we understood that, but we didn’t anticipate the tremendous cost of mitigation for those four acres. We figured about twenty-five thousand dollars per acre. It turned out to be sixty-thousand per acre. We decided to go ahead and work with he Army Corps of Engineers and at the state level we also worked with the Department of Natural Resources and we worked with the federal and state level and our port and we actually came up with a plan that satisfied all their needs and that was we took the top soil from these eight acres and actually put it into some wetlands, a water area that we had on the western edge of our property. So we took four acres of wetlands out of commission and we created out of open water, eleven-and-a-quarter acres of marshland.

David Richard and the Stream Land Services Company helped us do that work. That was finished up about two weeks ago. That all went well and we have a spoils reception area at our port. The spoils from both of those projects went into the spoils reception area. A few more shipments of spoils into there and we will be ready to put that 40-acre piece of land on the market as something that can be very valuable to business and industry because it will be 11 feet above sea level, which is a magic number in the coastal area.

Anything below 11-feet, you have trouble with insurance companies. … It’s got a beautiful berm all the way around it and it is right on the water so it’s something down the road that will be very attractive for our expansion of the port. It’s probably not ready right now unless a tenant wants to come along and help us bring dirt in there. We’re seeing some projects in the Lake Charles area now where that’s exactly what’s happening. So, it’s not impossible.

The port completed the basic expansion and we actually opened up in the first quarter of this year. The expanded barge basin area is fully concrete revetted. We increased our barge basin capacity by 50 percent. We work with the Devalls to park barges for a daily rate — we really are a parking lot for barges — in our West Barge Basin, that’s called the West Fleet Area. On the east side of the Ellender Bridge that goes over the GIWW, is property that is owned by the Devall family and that’s called the East Fleet. With the arrangement that we have with the Devalls, our total barge counts every day includes both sides. We used to have barge numbers back from ’06 to 2011, we would have maybe 50, 60, maybe 70 barges a day. We’re now almost daily exceeding 100. In fact, last week we topped our number — we had 117 barges.

What it signals is the growth of private industry and the expansion of existing industry in our region, as they grow, they need certain supporting tools and one of those tools is shallow barges for moving products and moving other types of materials. Most of them do not have the ability to accommodate a large number of barges physically at their business locations so these barges need to parked someplace else and we are about the only place in the parish to do that.

One of the other things that we bring to the table in our shallow water services is that we have the only public loading ramp in the parish where you can drive a truck on to a barge. I refer to our existing barge loading ramp as the Rube Goldberg Memorial. It’s a contraption. It has survived a couple of hurricanes. It’s there, but it’s seen it’s better days, but it’s still functional and it’s safe. But it is also located in a place where we wanted to expand our wet barge cleaning and stripping operations. So to make that happen, one is the port can apply for Port Priority Funding project to assist us in getting the revenue to build a new barge loading ramp.

Last fall, the Devalls offered to fund $450,000 to build the ramp and provide it to the port and if you want to talk about public/private partnerships and success stories, there probably is not a better one than you can find anywhere between the West Cal Port and the Devall Enterprises and their companies. It’s amazing.

We all want to talk about these public/private partnerships and how they succeed. This is a great success story.

We are now in the process of engineering that new barge loading ramp and it will be constructed and probably completed later this year. It’s components are being constructed in Houston and the Devalls have retained the Orion Marine Group at our port to oversee the project and do the installation and development of it.

And that brings us to another story of what I’m very proud of and that is what I call the synergy between our existing tenants — the ability that each provides a service or a need that benefits somebody else in the port. The Devall barge fleeting operation has been a tremendous support to Orion from time to time. It certainly has made possible that our wet barge clean barge services. Without Devall we wouldn’t have done it. So there’s a lot of synergy and interconnectivity between our tenants.

We are moving along very well and what makes our barge loading ramp so valued right now is it’s pretty common knowledge in our community that there’s a lot of natural gas exploration and drilling development going on in our parishes, especially in the marsh lands of Cameron and Calcasieu where you just can’t drive out to them. It’s not like a deep water platform and yet it’s not dry land either. It’s coastal developed exploration and in many cases the only way you can really move material and services to that drilling operation is by barge. So we frequently have service trucks, i.e. Halliburton, Schlumberger to come out to our port. They will drive 18-wheelers off our ramp onto barges and they will go out to do their services at the drilling rigs and they will come back. So we provide a real valued service for that and with this new loading ramp coming in, we’ll even provide a much better service.

And again, capitalizing on this public/private concept, the loading ramp is just one step of this because we also are able to bring in the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury and from their gaming revenue that they get, we got a two hundred-and-fifty thousand dollar grant to install a seven hundred-foot hard surface roadway that will go to our loading ramp as you come in our main entrance. It makes a more direct run to the loading ramp and it is much more user friendly for the truckers to get on and off the ramp and the new ramp will make it easier for the captains of the push boats who are moving the barges in there. So that’s a good upgrade. We’re happy about that.

Another part of our infrastructure, the Orion Marine Group just completed an expansion of new bulkheading for us in the new East Barge Basin. Had we gone out on the local economy and bid for that work to be done, it would have cost the port probably in excess of three million dollars. But it was part of the agreement when Orion came in ’09 with their five-year contract that they would make these improvements to our waterfront and they were good to their word. They did a beautiful job on it. It’s another infrastructure growth element that we have really enjoyed.

In addition to that, we do have some other needs. One of the other needs around the Devall building at our port is bulkheading that is probably 35 to 40 years old and it has seen it’s better days. It has been through hurricanes, it has been through day-to-day rugged use in the shallow water fleeting business. So we are in the process of getting the funding in place to replace the bulkheading.

Last fall we went out with the help of Jay Delafield, a local bonding attorney — he’s probably one of the best in the state — and we were able to secure three million dollars in bonding through the state and we now have activated one million of that. We are using a local bank. We have a very competitive rate and we have one million sitting there that is actually being use to fund permitting and engineering for the replacement of the bulkheading.

The rest of the money will hopefully come from some Capital Outlay money, hopefully next year. We understand we have a chance to be moved from Priority 2 to Priority 1 for next year and we’re not just asking the state to fund the project, we intend to match that money dollar for dollar so that it’s not just a handout from Baton Rouge. That money that we are going to use is going to come from this bond money and this is the first time that the port has gone out for bond money. With the help of Jay Delafield and our own people, internally, on our staff of the port has contracts with, we were able to get that done.

What are the barges mainly transporting?

There are a variety of things. And some of these barges, it’s a pass through. Barges may come from the East Coast and may be headed on the Intracoastal to Texas. They may be coming from Texas headed for Florida. They may be coming from Texas to the Mississippi and up the Mississippi River so there’s a wide variety and sometimes they will come in at our port for a couple of days before they are ready to move on. Maybe they are waiting for another barge to be completed so there are a series of barges that will be pushed in one direction or another.

Many of the barges we have are loaded with petroleum coke, for example. As they load out with coke from our refineries and our communities, there is no place for them to store those barges so they come down and they park them at our barge basin. They do that with a contract at Devall Fleeting and then Devall Fleeting gets a share of that day rate and the port gets a share of that day rate. That’s the arrangement that we have.

The Devall contract that we have with our port that was scheduled to be up in 2017 was extended to 2037, so they have a lot of value for what the port is and where we’re at and quite frankly our port could not be what it is today without the public/private partnership that we have with the Devalls. So it’s very beneficial both ways.

Talk about how competitive barge traffic is and the capacity barge traffic has compared with rail traffic and truck traffic.

I’m sure the folks that run railroad lines and the folks with trucking companies have their own arguments on how they want to structure statistics, but based on the statistics that we received from the Waterway Council, which is a clearing house for companies that represent a lot of the business on the inland waterways in Washington (D.C.), the real benefit on barge is in two areas: one economical on how much fuel is spent on a mile per ton of product or materials moved and the other one is the environmental, the amount of emissions that are put into the air through the barge is considerably less than rail or truck that if you look at economics and environmental as two gauges to measure this, the barge industry is extremely competitive. And we are so fortunate in our corner of the state to have a couple of significant waterways — the Calcasieu River waterway and the Gulf Intracoastal Water Way. And we’re interconnected because the Gulf Intracoastal, you can move into the Mississippi (River) very easily and from there it can get you to the Missouri or Ohio (rivers). It’s very, very competitive, especially in the inner part of the country between the Rockies and the Appalachian mountains.

When you take the Intracoastal and you can go all the way over to Florida and from there you can connect up to the Carolinas, it’s very, very solid barge transportation industry and very competitive.

How do you see the port benefitting from the coming expansion coming in west Calcasieu with the local industries?

I think that the common phrase is that a rising tide raises all ships…. It truly is. We know the strength of the economic development at the Port of Lake Charles and what this is going to mean to them. When these businesses do their expansions and their growth and even afterwards when they become operational, there are secondary and tertiary businesses that are going to be needed to support them. Many of them are going to be anchored to the waterways one way or the other, and not all of them have to deep water. You can look at the growth that we anticipate will be at our port is going to be generated by companies that are going to be supporting these type of businesses — Magnolia, Sempra, Cheniere, Trunkline, Sasol.

But it’s not just the West Cal port either. You look at the Port of Vinton. It’s a small port, not an emerging port but more of an inland, small port. Dunham Price is their big tenant over there. They are just getting ready to make 350 acres available for development. They have one waterway that goes north off the Intracoastal towards Vinton and that anchors them in the Intracoastal. There’s great growth opportunities there.

You look at the mouth of the Calcasieu (Ship Channel) with the West Cameron Port. There is so much opportunity potential there for being another shore base for deepwater exploration and production, especially if we can get a public/private development of Monkey Island.

You look at the Port of Mermentau, there’s tremendous opportunity on the Mermentau (River) for the growth of construction materials and also for agriculture and food stock shipment and materials.

With the six ports around here we cover the whole gamut of what this community needs, even water for gaming vessels.

What ground haven’t we covered?

The West Calcasieu Port is tied very closely to the western part of the parish. Our board members are selected by the mayor and city council of Sulphur, by the West Cal Chamber of Commerce, by the police jurors from the West Cal area and also from the Labor Council. These five, they get a little bit of compensation for the monthly meetings, but I’m constantly in touch with them, constantly polling their opinions and attitudes and their advice. I work them pretty hard and they are very responsive and very supportive and they are a significant reason why we’ve had some success and then the rest of our staff, Meyer and Associations with engineering, Glen James with legal support, Darla Perry with CPA support. None of us are full-time for the port, but what a great team to work with. My hats are off to them.

And I go back to working with existing ports that we have in our area as well as the ports at the state level. The relationships are very strong and you think it would be competitive, and at a certain level there is some competitiveness, but more than that there’s some real camaraderie. With our six ports in Southwest Louisiana, there’s a lot of helping together. We even do some trade shows together. We’ll all staff a trade booth together.

The other thing I salute too is our leadership in Southwest Louisiana. For me and the port, it’s primarily the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury and the leadership they’ve demonstrated, the mayor and City Council of Sulphur, as well as the (legislative) delegation of Southwest Louisiana that carries our banner for us to Baton Rouge. And I don’t want to overlook our federals — I work very closely with Mark Herbert from Sen. Mary Landrieu, Brooke David for Sen. (David) Vitter and Joe Hill for Congressman (Charles) Boustany. Tremendous support I get from them to help grow our port.