Warning Sent to Ship Captains in Port Mansfield Regarding Shallow Water
PORT MANSFIELD – With Port Mansfield waters at an all-time low, the port director is putting out a warning to all ship captains.
He says the problem was caused by years without dredging to the channel and relief may not come any time soon.
Chad Kinney, of Bamm Bamm Charters at Port Mansfield said, “It's a safety hazard every single day, especially for people that aren't used to doing what we do every day.”
He knows to a tiny sliver where the waters are calm because he mapped out the sea floor.
He explains during Hurricane Harvey, one boat got stranded without that intel. The boat captain decided to take shelter at jetties, except the water levels weren't high enough.
“A 200-foot ship with people on board ran around between the jetties. The U.S. Coast Guard had to fly out during the hurricane and tropical force winds and rescue 12 people off the ship and it stayed grounded for 21 days before they could unstick it,” said Port Director Ronald Mills.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers used to dredge the channel every year but stopped in 2008 after a policy change stating ports that don't produce 1 million tons of material a year don't get any additional support.
The waters have become shallower. Kinney says that’s impacted the economy in the area with fewer boats venturing to the area.
“They're not going to come in and out of here, so we lose all the economy from housing to bait sales, to fuel sales and all of the above," he says.
The ship channel area should be 25 feet deep, but right now seabirds waddle around in that water.
“I've asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide me survey data from the west end of the jetties all the way to the harbor, but they can't tell me what's between the jetties because the water is so shallow they can't even get their survey boat in there to check it,” said Mills.
Mills reached out to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for federal funds after Hurricane Harvey caused more debris to pile up, but they were denied. He says the state can't provide funds either.
“So if I can't use state funds and I can't use federal funds, then whose funds do I use? Who's going to help us? It's a $10 million project to open it back to its original state,” said Mills.
A spokesperson with FEMA recently told Mills they are looking to get funds for the ship channel through a "life and safety measure." They will hopefully get the port approved for some, if not all the funding.