GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A project to dredge the ship channel at the Port of Gulfport will begin in September. The port authority board on Thursday approved an agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers to proceed.
"We should see dredging starting sometime in early September. It should be about a four or five month process," said Port Director Jonathan Daniels.
The dredging project is channel maintenance, returning the channel to its authorized depth of 36 feet.
"With what goes on with many of our current tenants now, it's awfully tight. This gets us back to our authorized depth of 36 feet and allows us the opportunity to engage in even stronger business development activities," said Director Daniels.
The port authority board agreed to put up $8 million to jump-start the maintenance dredging, which is a responsibility of the federal government. The 10 month process proved more challenging than expected.
"You think it would be easy to provide $8 million of our cash and give it to the federal government for them to take it as part of what their responsibility is anyways," said Daniels.
The $8 million will be credited toward a future channel deepening project.
"Will give us credit toward future cost shares. So it's really a down payment. We're not just giving money to the federal government. We'll get it back at some point in the future," said Commissioner Jack Norris.
Board members say getting the channel deep enough is critical for future development.
"It means that all the work we're doing down there, we'll be able to accommodate larger ships. It means the longshoremen that are working their today, as soon as that project is over, Dupont will bring in bigger ships that will create more man hours. That's what this whole project is about," said Board Chairman John Rester.
In other business, the board approved a contract for the first major construction phase of Dupont's planned improvement project at the port.
Following an executive session, the board agreed to a six month "hold over" contract with Chiquita. As you may know, that company is leaving the Port of Gulfport for New Orleans. Though its contract expires July 15; Chiquita requested an additional six months to "wrap up" its Gulfport operations.