New federal water legislation to benefit 20 infrastructure projects in Texas
The omnibus funding bill signed into law on December 27 authorized 20 water infrastructure projects in Texas under the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2020.
Authorization of the Houston Ship Channel Expansion Improvement Project will bolster efforts to expand the port.
Houston Ship Channel
As the local sponsor of this federal waterway, Port Houston is partnering with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) as well as private industry on a plan to expand the channel at an accelerated pace.
The Houston Ship Channel expansion – Project 11 – will widen the channel by 170 feet along its Galveston Bay reach, from 530 feet to 700 feet, and it will deepen upstream segments to 45 feet, make other safety and efficiency improvements, and craft new environmental features.
Port officials said they anticipate beginning work on this project in early 2021. Once the WRDA is enacted, the next step in the project delivery process will be to secure a New Start designation from the Administration and discretionary funding from USACE.
In addition, the legislation authorized the:
- Jefferson County ecosystem restoration project.
- Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, Brazos River Floodgates, and Colorado River Locks navigation project.
- Matagorda Ship Channel Improvement Project in Port Lavaca.
- Chacon Creek flood risk management project.
- Feasibility studies for flood risk management projects for Port Arthur and Orange County, Chocolate Bayou, and Port of Victoria.
- Project modifications for the Houston-Galveston Navigation Channels and Port of Corpus Christi Channel Improvement projects.
- Expedition of studies for the Buffalo Bayou, Lake Whitney Reallocation, Aquilla Lake Reallocation, and Lower Rio Grande River projects
The WRDA requires the Secretary of the Army to provide a status update on efforts to address flooding at Wilson and Sloan creeks in Fairview, and it directs the USACE to assist El Paso County with a proposal to modify the authorized funding level for a water related infrastructure project.
In addition, the new law directed the Corps to identify specific engineering and maintenance deficiencies for levees across Texas and reauthorized the Rio Grande Environmental Management Program in Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado through 2029.