By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has allocated $274.3 million for the Port of Mobile, the final funding piece to allow the dredging and expansion of the state’s largest port, U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby announced this week.
The fiscal year 2020 funding will initiate and complete construction of the deepening and widening of the channel, Shelby’s office said. Construction is expected to begin around the end of the year.
“Today marks a historic moment and victory for Mobile and the entire state of Alabama,” Shelby said in a written statement. “Over the last decade, I have been advocating for the deepening and widening of the Port of Mobile. 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. 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.”
Jimmy Lyons, port director and chief executive officer, thanked Shelby for his effort to expand the port.
“Sen. Richard Shelby clearly understands the economic value of seaports,” Lyons said. “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.”
In December, the Energy and Water Development portion of the $1.4 trillion domestic appropriations bill enacted and funded a program to allow the Alabama port expansion project to move forward. The bill contains $378 million for a Regional Dredge Demonstration Program in the central Gulf of Mexico. Though not a direct appropriation, it was a precursor to Shelby’s Monday announcement.
In September, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved a plan to deepen and widen the shipping channel into the Port of Mobile. The proposed improvement project will deepen the existing Bar, Bay and River Channels to 52 feet, 50 feet and 50 feet, respectively. The project includes widening the Bay Channel by 100 feet for three nautical miles to accommodate two-way vessel traffic.
During the 2019 legislation session, state lawmakers approved a 10-cent-a-gallon gas tax increase expected to generate about $320 million a year. About $150 million of that new revenue was pledged to port improvements.
The Port of Mobile is one of the nation’s fastest growing container seaports and has an economic impact of $22.4 billion, Shelby’s office said.