Wider. Deeper. Safer.
Expanding the Houston Ship Channel is critical to safely and efficiently sustaining national energy security, domestic manufacturing growth, thriving U.S. exports, and expanding job opportunities.
It is one of the most vital waterways in the country, connecting the nation’s largest petrochemical complex to the globe. The waterway has more deep-draft ship visits than any other port in the country, and nearly 200,000 barge transits every year as well. As energy and manufacturing exports increase and vessel sizes grow, improving the channel is nationally important.
That national economic impact is significant: the Port of Houston drives $802 billion in annual national economic value, sustains more than three million U.S. jobs, and is the nation’s number one port in foreign waterborne tonnage.
As the local sponsor of this crucial federal waterway, Port Houston is partnering with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 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. It will also deepen upstream segments to 45 feet, make other safety and efficiency improvements, and craft new environmental features.
With the help of our industry partners, we plan to begin work as early as 2021. The goal is to make the channel safer and more efficient and ensure the waterway remains a major national asset.
The time to act is now!
What is the “Texas Chicken” Maneuver?
This maneuver is unique to the Houston Ship Channel. Ships from opposing directions in the channel meet each other head-on but still safely pass each other, as hydrodynamic forces keep the vessels from touching! This maneuver is successfully performed every day, and it’s necessary in relatively narrow channels like ours. Even with the incredible skill this maneuver requires, there is no question that a wider channel is a safer channel.
The Houston Ship Channel Mega Study and Chief Engineer’s Report
Port Houston began planning the latest improvements to the Houston Ship Channel in 2010, working in collaboration with Congress, the Army Corps of Engineers, and channel stakeholders.
With help from Port Houston, the Corps is entering the final stages of its five-year Project 11 feasibility study – the Houston Ship Channel Mega Study – planning the next navigation improvements to the Houston Ship Channel system.
The Corps feasibility study is expected to conclude in Spring 2020 with the Chief Engineer’s Report, meeting regulatory requirements and making recommended improvements to the waterway, for submittal to Congress.
Water Resources Development Act (WRDA)
After the Corps completes this work, it will be Congress’ turn to act. Congress will review the report and consider authorizing the project in its Water Resources Development Act, or WRDA, legislation. Congress schedules WRDA legislation for passage every two years to provide the Corps with direction on projects and policy in all of its mission areas, including navigation, flood control, and environmental restoration.
It is anticipated that Congress will consider its next WRDA legislation in 2020, and Port Houston and partners are working to include authorization for Project 11 among its measures.