Here's why $23 million for the Corpus Christi Ship Channel is good news but not great news
Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton is providing important advocacy for the Port of Corpus Christi's overdue ship channel widening and deepening project. Editorial Board, Corpus Christi Caller-Times
We weren't, as the cliche goes, looking a gift horse in the mouth. Rather, we were making sure that the gift horse was — to mix metaphors — a bird in the hand, not two in the bush. We are thrilled and relieved the port isn't totally on its own moving forward with this $327 million project, which will widen the channel enough to allow two-way traffic and deepen it enough to accommodate the largest ships.
We are happy but careful in our applause because this project has been on the drawing board for nearly 30 years, which means it has been there since drawing boards were still a thing. In the intervening years, we've seen funding proposed and approved in various stages except when it counts.
A lot has changed since the project first was proposed. As recently as the turn of the 21st century, even the smartest petroleum advocates believed the now-thoroughly debunked theory of "peak oil" — meaning that the world was going to run out of it.
Now, we have enough oil, and know enough about how and where to get more, that it has become relatively inexpensive. Not only have we as a nation resumed exporting it, but the Port of Corpus Christi is the nation's leading oil export port.
Being an oil export port makes our port an extremely strategic economic and geopolitical asset to the nation. This dredging project is in the entire nation's best interest, and in the interest of our trading partners. It is a conduit for reducing the nation's trade deficit.
That's the glass-half-full way to look at it. We devil's advocates prefer the glass-half-empty approach, which is that delaying the project this long has been contrary to the nation's best interest. So shame on anyone — foot-dragging federal bureaucrats, insufficiently enthusiastic Texas congressional representation, wily representatives from other states seeking to fund ports in their districts — who would dare to stand in its way.
This step by the Corps will fund the second of six contracts. The project's best-case-scenario completion date is 2021. By then, we should have the replacement for Harbor Bridge, with enough clearance for the tallest ships. Also, pipeline projects to move more oil from the field to our port are expected to be finished around that time.
So, thank you, Corps, but our port — which also is your port — needs this project done in time to accommodate those pipelines.