Port Authority of Houston shaping up

HOUSTON Simply put, the Port of Houston Authority is "going green," and getting "greener" by the minute. While the improvements have been made to meet state and federal regulations, port officials are quick to point out they are focused on long-term environmental improvements. But is it enough to ease criticism by environmentalists?

Marshland has been created by the Port of Houston Authority to encourage wildlife.

"You find oysters, shrimps, and all kinds of barnacles here," Port Channel Development Manager Lloyd Saunders said.

The marshland has been created out of necessity as well as for aesthetic reasons. 350 million cubic yards of material were dredged and used to build 40 acres of habitat.

"The first year, we built a little six acre island as an experiment," Chairman of the Port of Houston Authority Jim Edmunds said. "We had 320 birdsightings."

The strategy was to put the dredge somewhere that would be beneficial. The marshland also acts as a filter.

"The marsh traps particles that are floating in the water that becomes part of the soil-building process," Saunders said.

One of the more dramatic changes is happening where trucks check in and check out of Bayport.

Trucks now wait an average of two minutes to get checked in instead of idling 15 minutes or longer.

"The time is cut because it's basically a paperless process now, versus before we had an exchange of paper and made the trucks sit in the lanes longer," Port General Manager Roger Guenther said.

Yet not everyone is satisfied with the Port Authority's progress. The Environmental Defense Fund is a nonprofit, international organization that monitors the Port Authority's development.

"It's nice to create the wetland, but in terms of that being your focus for your environmental program, it's not enough," Environmental Defense Fund representative Dr. Elena Craft said. "It's simply not enough."

The Environmental Defense Fund is in contact with the Port of Houston Authority and regularly gives input. As for the Port of Houston Authority, they also use hybrid cars for their fleet, and the chairman says they've created an Environmental Planning Commission for long term 'green' planning.

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