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Ship Channel essential, and so is funding for its maintenance

Posted by: George Swift on Sunday, May 8, 2022

(Originally run in the May 8, 2022, edition of the American Press)

The Calcasieu Ship Channel is a major force in the Southwest Louisiana economy. By some measures, it’s the single largest economic component of all.

The waterway is essential to industries, businesses and agriculture to move materials in and local products out. It is also “America’s Energy Corridor,” serving the petrochemical sector’s needs and facilitating world-class exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Just how important is the Calcasieu Ship Channel? A recent study found that it drives two-thirds of the gross domestic product of Calcasieu and Cameron parishes — and fully $39 billion of the national GDP.

Those statistics show that the Calcasieu Ship Channel is essential — and so is federal support and other funding for its maintenance.

Our team is just back from Washington, D.C., where we told our state’s Congressional delegation that Southwest Louisiana’s needs include federal funding for the proper and ongoing maintenance of the Ship Channel.

We, and the world, increasingly rely on a well-maintained waterway that can handle cargo ships efficiently, even as certain vessels and cargoes get larger and larger.

That’s why funding support for Calcasieu Ship Channel maintenance is central to Southwest Louisiana’s economic success.

This support can come in the form of:

  • Federal funding for the ongoing proper maintenance of the Ship Channel. This is a point on which all corners of area business, industry and agriculture should join the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance’s call for our Congressional delegation to work toward securing federal funding.
  • Private-public partnerships, or P3s, in which businesses and industries ally with a shared cause, with shared funding, for a common good. For example, industries operating on land leased from the Port of Lake Charles can partner with the Lake Charles Harbor and Terminal District to help fund a project beneficial to the Ship Channel.

The stated funding needs for the 2023 fiscal year are $54 million for operations and maintenance and $19.5 for construction, according to the port district. For the 2024 fiscal year, the numbers are $45 million and $9 million, respectively.

The recent economic study commissioned by the port district is a deep dive into the Ship Channel’s economic might.

The study states that the port district and Ship Channel are major sources of local jobs and tax revenue — with $46 million in still more projects planned in the next five years.

The Ship Channel is a spark plug for 42,075 jobs in Calcasieu and Cameron parishes, based on 2020 statistics. That represents 45 percent — nearly half — of the area’s non-farm jobs.

Also:

  • There were 13,279 direct jobs generated in the Calcasieu-Cameron area during that time.
  • Marine cargo activity along the Ship Channel supported $39 billion of total economic value to the U.S. economy. About $12 billion of that value was in Calcasieu and Cameron parishes — or 67 percent of our region’s GDP.

With the addition of Cameron LNG and Venture Global LNG tonnage, the Port of Lake Charles should grow to become the eighth- or ninth-largest tonnage port in the nation.

The port district is the anchor of our region’s economy. The Calcasieu Ship Channel is a global economic pathway. For these reasons, ongoing federal funds — and other means such as P3s —will be essential to assure a well-maintained Calcasieu Ship Channel for Southwest Louisiana and the world.

 

George Swift

President and CEO

Chamber SWLA/SWLA Economic Development Alliance

Lake Charles

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