Plans to Widen Ship Channel Hit Snag

Plans to Widen Ship Channel Hit Snag

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Plans to widen a portion of the Mobile Shipping Channel have hit a snag. The Alabama Port Authority wants to widen and deepen a five-mile stretch from Dauphin Island north.

“Time is big time money and the bigger the ships the bigger the dollars and sometimes we might be holding two or three ships to let one wide body ship pass,” said Port Authority Director Jimmy Lyons.

The dredging project would essentially create a “passing” lane, something necessary, according to Lyons, as ships get wider and more plentiful.

The project to widen the channel, however, is now on hold. Several residents on Dauphin Island have requested that the Army Corps of Engineers do a full environmental impact study,  a move that could delay the project by a couple of years and cost millions of dollars. Dauphin Island Mayor Jeff Collier says there are concerns about the impact the dredging could have on the on-going erosion of the island, and concerns about where to put the spoils.

“As they widen and deepen the channel we want make sure there’s no adverse effects to the surrounding areas, including island, but secondarily as we look to dispose of this material, we would like to know that it’s being put in the most beneficial location so it can benefit the barrier island,” said Collier.

The state docks director, though, says the study would be a waste of time and money. Jimmy Lyons says dredging has no link to erosion on the island.

There’s a group of people on Dauphin Island who are absolutely convinced the Mobile ship channel is the root cause of Dauphin Island’s problem,” said Lyons.” The problem is, they don’t have any science on their side.”

Lyons says if a study has to be done it might as well look at the entire length of the channel to address any future expansion beyond the five-mile stretch near Dauphin Island.

The estimated cost of the five-mile project is 13-15 million-dollars.

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