WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a rare bipartisan, bicameral show of unanimous support, the Alabama congressional delegation on Monday officially endorsed modernizing the Mobile Harbor Federal Navigation Channel.
Deepening, widening, and improving the channel into Alabama’s seaport could render major economic benefits for the state, the delegation wrote in a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. A tentative plan to deepen and widen the channel is currently under review, and the Corps is accepting economic impact statements as part of the revaluation process.
U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who led the delegation letter, has championed the Mobile channel improvements for years, arguing the economic benefits could be “exponential” by “facilitating and expanding commerce in the state.”
U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Ala.), U.S. Representatives Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), Martha Roby (R-Ala.), Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.), and Gary Palmer (R-Ala.) each signed the letter.
The current tentative plan under consideration by the Corps recommends deepening the existing channels by five feet, incorporating bend easings in the Bar Channel, widening the Bay Channel from 400 feet to 500 feet for three nautical miles, and expanding the Choctaw Pass Turning Basin to better accommodate the safe turning of large vessels. The Corps’ General Reevaluation Report, or GRR, is scheduled to be complete by November 2019.
“Modernizing the capabilities of one of the nation’s largest seaports will spur exponential economic investment by allowing larger ships and more goods to be shipped and sold, facilitating and expanding commerce,” the letter reads in part.
“We believe that the TSP accomplishes these goals in a manner that is economically and environmentally responsible, and encourage the Corps to move forward to attain the Agency Decision Milestone and to expeditiously deepen and widen the federal channel.”
“The deepening and widening of the Port of Mobile will provide economic development opportunities throughout the entire state of Alabama,” said Senator Shelby. “This project will create an avenue for exponential growth by facilitating and expanding commerce in the state. I look forward to continuing our work with the Corps as we strive to improve the safety and efficiency of the Port in an increasingly global marketplace.”
“Alabama is a trade state and the modernization of the Port of Mobile is key to our economic future,” said Senator Jones. “I’m proud to join Senator Shelby and my colleagues in fighting for Alabama farmers and businesses and supporting their efforts to secure new opportunities brought by a wider, deeper port. This is an important step forward in our efforts to maximize the competitive advantage of Alabama’s farmers, shippers, and manufacturers.”
“While the Port of Mobile might seem like a long way from the 4th Congressional District in North Alabama, it is vitally important to the area I serve. Two large rivers in the 4th District, the Coosa and the Black Warrior, both flow into Mobile Bay, making the bay and these two rivers critically important for the economy of my district and our entire state,” said Representative Aderholt.
“I support the Port of Mobile and was pleased to sign on to Senator Shelby’s letter to the Army Corps. In my congressional district, both the agriculture and automobile industries will greatly benefit from the modernization,” said Representative Rogers.
“I appreciate Senator Shelby’s leadership on this important issue, and am always pleased to work with the Alabama delegation,” said Representative Brooks. “As the 10th largest seaport in the United States, the Port of Mobile is a huge economic driver for our state, and I fully support efforts to modernize and improve the capabilities of this vital port.”
“The Port of Mobile is vitally important to economic growth throughout the State of Alabama and the surrounding region,” said Representative Roby. “I am pleased to support this effort to make more resources available as we work to expand the capabilities of this seaport. I am proud to work alongside Senator Shelby and the rest of Alabama’s congressional delegation to invest in and support our growing economy and its future needs.”
“Investments in Alabama’s trade infrastructure give our state a competitive advantage in today’s global marketplace,”said Representative Sewell. “I am proud to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to invest in infrastructure projects that bring better jobs and better wages to our state. The Port of Mobile is an economic engine in Alabama, and the plan drafted by the Army Corps of Engineers would modernize its facilities, expand commerce, and secure our port’s future.”
“The Port of Mobile is critical to Southwest Alabama, but it plays just as important a role throughout the rest of our state. The deepening and widening project will greatly expand the capabilities at the Port and the overall economic potential – meaning a win for all of us. I appreciate the work Senator Shelby and our Alabama delegation has put in to move the project forward, and I will continue working with stakeholders at all levels to ensure the project remains on track,” said Representative Byrne.
“I have long supported the expansion of the Port of Mobile and think transportation will be greatly improved as a result of it,” said Representative Palmer.
The full text of the letter is below.
Dear Colonel Joly,
We write to offer our comments in support of the Tentatively Selected Plan (TSP) identified in the Draft Mobile Harbor, Mobile, Alabama Integrated General Reevaluation Report with Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement.
The Port of Mobile (Port), operated by the Alabama State Port Authority (Authority), is currently the 10th largest seaport in the United States and has been identified as the fastest growth container terminal in North America. In any given year, between 52-67 million tons of cargo moves through the Port. The Authority’s container, general cargo and bulk facilities have immediate access to two interstate systems, five Class 1 railroads, and 15,000 miles of inland waterway connections. To keep up with demand, the Authority has invested more than $700 million towards a capital expansion program to establish additional facilities, including new steel and container terminals, an expansion of the coal terminal, a rail ferry terminal, new warehouses, two “super Post-Panamax” cranes, and an automobile roll-on/roll-off terminal. While these additions have improved the safety and efficiency of the Port for many of our constituent companies, there is still a vital project that must be completed to ensure the competitiveness of the Port in an increasingly global marketplace.
Currently, the Port maintains an average depth of 45 feet and width of 400 feet. Due to the expansion of the Panama Canal, the marine fleet is continually trending to larger, deeper-draft vessels. Without critical port and waterway improvements, these larger ships will continue to experience transportation delays and inefficiencies due to the limited channel depth and width. As such, we applaud your efforts thus far to study the engineering, economic, and environmental impacts associated with the deepening and widening of the existing navigation system.
Modernizing the capabilities of one of the nation’s largest seaports will spur exponential economic investment by allowing larger ships and more goods to be shipped and sold, facilitating and expanding commerce. We believe that the TSP accomplishes these goals in a manner that is economically and environmentally responsible, and encourage the Corps to move forward to attain the Agency Decision Milestone and to expeditiously deepen and widen the federal channel.
Thank you for your attention to this matter and please let us know if we can provide any additional information.