La Quinta Ship Channel Extension Funded; One-Year Lease Option for Possible Multi-Purpose/Container Port Terminal Approved
May 25, 2011
The 45-foot deep La Quinta Ship Channel – first opened in 1952 – connects San Patricio County heavy industries to world markets. The federal ship channel will soon be extended westward 1.4 miles to a new turning basin and the site of the proposed La Quinta Multi-Purpose Facility.
The Port of Corpus Christi Authority owns 1,100 acres fronting on the channel, property that will be developed for marine terminal, industrial and mixed commercial uses. The San Patricio Municipal Water District will provide water to new operations as they are added to the property.
The Army Corps of Engineers announced in May that $58.5 million in federal funding has been allocated for the channel extension. The port authority will provide $15 million in local matching funds for the channel construction which could be completed by the end of 2012.
The channel extension project started in 2010 with a $1.1 million contract for construction of a 126 acre dredge material placement area. Sand and clay material dredged during channel construction will go into the containment area which has three sub-cells and 12-foot high earthen levees.
The Corps of Engineers will open bids on the dredging project on Sept. 15th.
The channel extension project is part of a larger ship channel deepening project which went through an extensive environmental approval process a decade ago and was authorized by Congress in 2007. While the channels have been incrementally deepened over the years, the La Quinta project is first lengthening of the Corpus Christi Ship Channel system since the Inner Harbor was extended to the Viola Turning Basin in 1960.
The proposed La Quinta Multipurpose Facility site, located just east of Portland, is permitted and flexible plans will accommodate container terminals, project cargo and storage, warehousing, distribution centers, industrial uses and logistics centers. The proposed TPCO America Corp. pipe plant is expected to be a user of the terminal as it serves pipe markets around the Atlantic Basin.
Permitting and engineering has been completed for a 3,600-foot ship and barge dock that would accommodate three ship slips of 1,200 feet each. Plans have also been drawn for loop rail service, an intermodal rail yard, roads, drainage and utilities.
The port authority approved a lease option agreement in May with Global Terminal Advisors (GTA) covering 780 acres of the site. GTA will have a year to seek out a container terminal operator, identify funding and develop a plan for building and operating the proposed terminal. The option calls for a 50-year agreement if it is exercised. Port planners believe that a container terminal in San Patricio County could be viable with the opening of the expanded Panama Canal in 2014. It is envisioned that the terminal will serve markets in Texas and the central United States.
Under the option agreement the port authority would be responsible for building road, rail and utility infrastructure to serve the proposed marine terminal.
The port authority has negotiated with container terminal operators in the past but those efforts could not move forward without an assurance that the federal ship channel extension project would be completed.
The Corps has approved a Port Authority request to increase the depth of the extension to from the originally approved 39 feet to 45 feet to match the current depth of the existing channel system.
There are no vertical clearance restrictions on the deepwater docks and terminals on La Quinta Channel in San Patricio County. This lack of bridges or other obstructions has been an essential factor in the success of two facilities which build and service some of the world’s largest deepwater offshore drilling platforms.