Ship Chan­nel loses lit­tle of its depth to muck

Houston Chronicle - - BUSINESS - By An­drea Rum­baugh an­drea.rum­baugh@chron.com twit­ter.com/an­drea­rum­baugh

Mud and silt that washed into the Hous­ton Ship Chan­nel dur­ing Hur­ri­cane Har­vey did not make the wa­ter­way sig­nif­i­cantly shal­lower, a Coast Guard of­fi­cial said Thurs­day.

The Ship Chan­nel can usu­ally ac­com­mo­date ves­sels with drafts of 45 feet. The por­tion of the chan­nel just be­low Bay­port is ac­cept­ing ves­sels with drafts of 42 feet. The of­fi­cial said that is the most sig­nif­i­cant draft re­stric­tion through­out the Ship Chan­nel.

Galve­ston and Texas City don’t have draft re­stric­tions, and dredg­ing is oc­cur­ring to re­store other sec­tions of the chan­nel to typ­i­cal op­er­at­ing depth.

“We’re rapidly work­ing to re­store full nav­i­ga­bil­ity,” said Steve Ner­heim, di­rec­tor of the Coast Guard’s Ves­sel Traf­fic Ser­vices for Hous­ton and Galve­ston.

Jim Kruse, di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Ports and Wa­ter­ways at the Texas A&M Trans­porta­tion In­sti­tute, said 3 less feet of draft makes a dif­fer­ence. It means that ships can carry sev­eral thou­sand tons less.

Over­all, he said, shal­low­ing of the Hous­ton Ship Chan­nel wasn’t as bad as ex­pected. Los­ing 3 feet of draft would be a big­ger deal if the dam­age were per­ma­nent. But the Ship Chan­nel will be deep­ened again to 45 feet.

“It’s a tem­po­rary in­con­ve­nience,” Kruse said. “It’s not go­ing to dam­age Hous­ton’s stand­ing as a port, but it’s go­ing to cost Hous­ton some money un­til they get it fixed.”

Hur­ri­cane Har­vey also caused a dry dock to sink in the up­per chan­nel. Ner­heim said per­son­nel are work­ing to re­move it from the wa­ter­way. On Wed­nes­day morn­ing, that sec­tion was opened to ships. Barges had pre­vi­ously been per­mit­ted in that por­tion.

Brett Coomer / Hous­ton Chron­i­cle

Mud and silt washed into the Hous­ton Ship Chan­nel dur­ing Hur­ri­cane Har­vey, but the wa­ter­way re­tained most of its depth.

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