Port's plan to place dredge material in channel sparks concerns

May 22, 2012 3:34:44 PM PDT
A plan to make room for bigger ships in the Bayport Ship Channel isn't sitting well with nearby residents, all because of what the port plans to do with tons of dirt it will soon be digging up.

Residents near the Bayport Ship Channel are fighting a proposal to deepen the waterway. They say the current plan would create a new, unwanted island in Galveston Bay.

Some residents are concerned that if the port's plan is approved, it will move all that dredge up soil to an area they say too many people and wildlife depend on.

In order for Houston to remain a competitive shipping center, leaders at the Port of Houston Authority say portions of the Bayport Ship Channel need to be deepened and widened.

"We're very concerned," homeowner Paul Francis said.

Francis and some other neighbors say they're concerned about the port's proposed plan on where to place all of the dredged material like mud, soil and silt.

"What they want to do is put a huge amount of dredge spoil, that is silt sucked up off the bottom, and create a whole new 450-acre island," Francis said.

Francis is among many who use this part of the Galveston Bay for recreation. That's why he's been pouring over the port's permit with the Army Corps of Engineers to deepen the ship channel to 45 feet from 40 feet.

Francis says his main worry is the port's proposal would move the dredged material to a nearby area of the bay he feels too many people depend on.

"It would destroy oysters, there would be a significant silt and erosion problem," Francis said.

Port of Houston Executive Director Leonard Waterworth says he worked with fish and wildlife and other agencies to identify sites that have beneficial use.

"We're trying to make sure that we totally understand what the community wants, that we totally understand what the environmental groups want and try to put them together to find the best solution," he said.

Some concerned neighbors are asking the port to consider other options, like dumping the dredged soil nearby in the Trinity Bay.

The Army Corps of Engineers will continue accepting public comments through July 5.

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