2019-02-06 / Front Page

Government shutdown won’t affect dredging plans for Port Mansfield, port director says

BY ALLEN ESSEX
Staff Writer


THE RECENT GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN AND THE POSSIBILITY OF ANOTHER DON’T SEEM TO BE SLOWING DOWN WORK AT THE U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS, which is planning a much-needed dredging project that should re-open a channel connecting Port Mansfield with the Gulf of Mexico, as well as dredging the harbor. Commercial craft may once again begin working from the Willacy County port and larger recreational fishing boats will again be able to use the port. (Photo by Allen Essex) THE RECENT GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN AND THE POSSIBILITY OF ANOTHER DON’T SEEM TO BE SLOWING DOWN WORK AT THE U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS, which is planning a much-needed dredging project that should re-open a channel connecting Port Mansfield with the Gulf of Mexico, as well as dredging the harbor. Commercial craft may once again begin working from the Willacy County port and larger recreational fishing boats will again be able to use the port. (Photo by Allen Essex) A recent month-long federal government shutdown won’t have any effect on a major dredging project to clean out the silt-clogged channel connecting Port Mansfield to the Gulf of Mexico, the intracoastal waterway and harbor, Port Director Ron Mills said Tuesday.

“I didn’t have any trouble getting hold of any of the people at the Corps of Engineers offices all through the shutdown,” Mills said. “They all worked through it.”


A PIER AT THE WILLACY COUNTY COASTAL RESOURCE CENTER at Port Mansfield is used for recreational fishing as well as eco-science programs used by schools and university classes. (Photos by Allen Essex) A PIER AT THE WILLACY COUNTY COASTAL RESOURCE CENTER at Port Mansfield is used for recreational fishing as well as eco-science programs used by schools and university classes. (Photos by Allen Essex) Most of the dredging work is scheduled to take place between

January and December 2019 but bids have not yet been awarded.

The 14.2-mile project, the most extensive since 1962, was approved July 5 but, so far, all bids have come in too high, so negotiations are continuing with bidders, Mills said.

The planned dredging will re-open the “land cut” or channel connecting Port Mansfield to the Gulf of Mexico, as well as deepening the channel in the Laguna Madre and the harbor, he said earlier. The reopening of the port will be a huge economic boost for Willacy County.

Initially, a pilot channel of about 10 feet deep from the harhe bor to the Intracoastal Waterway will be dug and then more dredging work will follow, Mills said.


PORT MANSFIELD IS ALREADY A PARADISE FOR FLAT-BOTTOM BAY BOATS, sometimes called scooters, but a planned dredging project will open up the port to larger, offshore, boats that will be able to carrier anglers to blue water. PORT MANSFIELD IS ALREADY A PARADISE FOR FLAT-BOTTOM BAY BOATS, sometimes called scooters, but a planned dredging project will open up the port to larger, offshore, boats that will be able to carrier anglers to blue water. Restrictions to protect nesting sea turtles and to reduce damage to sea grasses must also be adhered to so a timeline for dredging activities must be followed.

South Padre Island has expressed interest in obtaining much of the dredging material but some may be deposited near Port Mansfield, such as on Bird Island but the Army Corps of Engineers must obtain permission first, he said.

Re-opening of the port may attract commercial investment in companies that do boat repair and rebuilding, container shipping companies or companies that are equipped to service larger commercial or sport fishing vessels.

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