Port of Brownsville Supports Wetlands Restoration

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Port of Brownsville Supports Wetlands Restoration

Proposed and expanded Carl “Joe” Gayman channel
The proposed and expanded Carl “Joe” Gayman Channel. (Photo Rio Grande LNG)

Agreement with Rio Grande LNG supports Major Bahia Grande Wetlands

A provisional commitment has been reached by the Brownsville Navigation District Board of Commissioners and Rio Grande LNG towards the restoration and enhancement, as well as preservation of the Bahia Grande wetland complex. The commitment includes the expansion of a pilot channel into a permanent and enhanced source of tidal flow to the Bahia Grande.

Accoding to a press release from the Port of Brownsville, the Bahia Grande Restoration Project is contingent on Rio Grande LNG’s final investment decision to both construct and operate a new LNG liquefaction facility and export terminal at the Port of Brownsville. Texas-based NextDecade, LLC is the owner and developer of Rio Grande LNG.

The agreed upon environmental project would restart restoration work that had previously stalled due to lack of funding. The effort would enhance water flow, improve water quality and enrich thousands of acres of wetlands. It will also expand critical habitats for marine life and other wildlife in the 10,000-acre Bahia Grande wetlands area. Both federal and state agencies have identified the widening of the channel as a critical step to restore the wetlands habitat.

“The Port of Brownsville has long recognized the vitality of the Bahia Grande as critical to the area’s environmental health,” said BND Chairman John Wood. “This memorandum of understanding with Rio Grande LNG secures the future well-being of this tidal basin which in turn will re-establish balance to the ecological sanctuaries we’ve enjoyed for decades.”

Existing Carl “Joe” Gayman Channel
The current width of the Carl “Joe” Gayman Channel, which connects the Bahia Grande with the Brownsville Ship Channel. (Photo Rio Grande LNG)

Restoration efforts began in 2005 with the creation of the pilot channel. It is named after former Port of Brownsville commissioner and initial project sponsor Carl “Joe” Gayman. The channel connects the Bahia Grande with the Brownsville Ship Channel.

The BND has secured all necessary approvals and permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and now additionally has secured the requisite construction services from Rio Grande LNG. Rio Grande LNG who would bear the total cost for engineering and construction of the project. This will be in conjunction with their facility works.

The project will widen the channel to increase tidal exchange in additional to restoring more natural salinity regimes in the wetland. It will also enhance the natural hydrology and salinity of the Bahia Grande area. This will ensure the restoration and preservation of the wetlands habitat for fisheries, waterfowl and other wildlife; and provide the local community with public recreational benefits associated with a thriving ecological zone.

The BND commissioners unanimously approved the MOU with Rio Grande LNG at their June 7 board meeting. Rio Grande LNG is currently progressing through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission permitting process. It hopes to begin construction after a final investment decision next year.

As currently envisioned, Rio Grande LNG’s proposed facility and export terminal requires a capital investment of up to $17.3 billion. At full build-out of six trains, it will also employ several thousand workers during construction. Upon completion, the facility will create hundreds of permanent full-time jobs, as well as potentially generate hundreds of millions of dollars in local and state tax revenues. Additionally, the LNG project will provide a substantial boost to the local job market and economy. This is hoped to be achieved through the further creation of thousands more indirect jobs in Cameron County.

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