Mobile District to consider channel improvements in $7.8 million Mobile Harbor study
By John Barker, Mobile District public affairs specialist
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District, will soon complete existing condition modeling as part of a study to determine the viability of widening and/or deepening Mobile Harbor to new dimensions.
The $7.8 million study is a result of a 2014 request from the Alabama State Port Authority to conduct a comprehensive study to determine the costs, economic and environmental impacts of improving Mobile Harbor shipping channel. As of 2015, Mobile was the tenth busiest harbor, by volume, in the United States, according to Waterborne Commerce Data.
“The proposed channel modifications are based on the economic viability and other factors,” said David Newell, project manager. “The modeling will help determine the environmental impacts of the proposed modifications.
“At present, the existing channel depths and widths limit vessel cargo capacity, restrict many vessels to one-way traffic and in some reaches limit transit operations to daylight only for vessels transiting in and out of Mobile Harbor,” said Newell. “To address these concerns, in 2014, the Alabama State Port Authority requested that Mobile District consider widening and deepening the Mobile Harbor channel to its authorized dimensions. These improvements to the harbor would enable larger and more numerous vessels to safely use the port.”
Judith Adams, public relations officer for the Alabama State Port Authority, said these type of improvements will ensure the harbor continues to keep global business flowing.
“The Alabama State Port Authority's obligation is to ensure the Port of Mobile continues to provide critical infrastructure necessary to our economy, jobs creation and international competitiveness,” said Adams. “Ships are getting larger and markets are continually expanding. Seaport infrastructure investments, like the deepening and widening of the Mobile Ship Channel, ensure both our agribusiness, mining, manufacturing and retail shippers have access to cost-efficient ocean-carriage services necessary to compete in the global marketplace.”
The four-year study is cost-shared with the Alabama State Port Authority, the project’s local sponsor. The study is investigating an array of alternatives that include variations of widening and deepening the channel. The results will be presented in a General Reevaluation Report, or GRR. The study began in 2015.
The data developed during this study will enable the Mobile District to first develop an array of alternatives and, then, to narrow these alternatives to a tentatively selected plan. The overall study will determine whether it is environmentally and economically feasible to widen and/or deepen the channel.
In 1986, Congress authorized various modifications to Mobile Harbor, including widening and deepening the channel to 55-feet deep and 550-feet wide. Currently, most of the channel is 45-feet deep and 400-feet wide.
By late March 2018, the team will have developed sufficient information to designate the tentatively selected plan. With additional analysis specific to that plan, the team will prepare a draft general reevaluation report with a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement that will be prepared and released for public review and comment in July 2018.