Bill Aiming to Fund Texas Ports Clears Senate Committee

A bill creating a fund supporting future improvements to ship channels in Texas is heading to the full Senate for consideration.

Senate Bill 28, filed by Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, and co-authored by senators Juan “Chuy” Hijonosa, D-McAllen, and Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, received unanimous approval from the Senate Transportation Committee in March and is now awaiting approval from the Senate and House chambers.

The bill proposes the creation of a ship channel improvement revolving fund, controlled by the Texas Department of Transportation, which would help navigation districts finance qualified projects like channel widening or deepening. According to the bill, only projects authorized under the Water Resources and Development Act (WRDA) would be considered for funding.

In December 2016, the Port of Brownsville received full congressional authorization to pursue federal funding for the Brazos Island Harbor Channel Improvement Project after President Barack Obama signed the 2016 WRDA. The project calls for the Brownsville ship channel to be deepened to 52 feet from its current design depth of 42 feet.

With a depth of 52 feet, the port will be able to accommodate deeper draft cargo vessels carrying heavier loads, which translates to a greater economic impact per vessel for the region. It also aligns with the recent expansion of the Panama Canal, allowing newer and bigger ships crossing that stretch to call on the port for business.