Port of New Orleans making progress on a planned new container terminal in St. Bernard Parish

Published: Oct. 27, 2022 at 6:46 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The Port of New Orleans says major progress is being made on the planned $1.5 billion container facility that will be built in St. Bernard Parish, and on Thursday (Oct. 27) it released updated designs based upon input gathered from the community.

The Louisiana International Terminal eventually is expected to create more than 17,000 direct and indirect jobs and generate $1 billion in new tax revenue for the state and $470 million for St. Bernard Parish.

The port and GNO Inc. said Louisiana needs the facility to accommodate newer and bigger container vessels that cannot navigate under the Crescent City Connection bridge. Without it, they say Louisiana will lose shipping business to Texas and Alabama.

“If Louisiana does not quickly become big-ship ready, we stand to lose to competing ports,” said Port of New Orleans CEO Brandy Christian. “A recent economic study found that nearly 10,000 existing jobs in Louisiana and over a billion in output in the state would be lost in just a decade if we do not build the Louisiana International Terminal.”

Michael Hecht, president and CEO of GNO Inc., the region’s economic development organization, said, “It’s clear that we have to go downriver for a facility if we want to take these vessels, and this is really what the crux of it is. Building this facility that has the draft, that has the navigational capabilities, it doesn’t have any obstacles to take these bigger vessels.”

“It is important for expanding the opportunity for jobs and industry through Louisiana. Because you’re not just getting shipping jobs, you’re getting warehousing, you’re getting distribution centers.”

The port said it has been listening to community input, especially from residents of Violet and surrounding areas. It announced a new roadway, the St. Bernard Transportation Corridor, connecting Violet with the interstate and potentially alleviating traffic concerns.

But Robby Showalter, President of the group Save Our St. Bernard (SOS), which stands in opposition to the project, said port officials are just presenting renderings in order to quell the community’s fears about gridlock.

He said the new terminal will put three to four thousand trucks on St. Bernard roads daily.

“They have no plan to move this traffic from that facility, other than going right through our neighborhoods here in St. Bernard Parish and putting our residents at harm,” Showalter said. “It’s all a lie and a deception by the Port of New Orleans.

“There are zero permits, zero effort being made to build this highway they’re talking about.”

Christian said port officials have received approval from the Louisiana legislature for $50 million in funding to build the roadway, and that so far $2 million has been released in order to conduct a feasibility study. Showalter said he is doubtful the roadway will receive the funding the port is asking for.

SOS, which Showalter said has gathered more than 10 thousand signatures opposing the project, has several points of contention with the new terminal, from traffic to environmental to quality of life, starting with the selection of Violet as the location for the proposed project.

Showalter said, aside from the concerns surrounding flood mitigation provided by wetlands that will ultimately be wiped out by the project, he doesn’t see the types of major ships the terminal is being built to attract choosing to travel so far upriver.

“If you talk to shippers and people in the industry, they said this project of this magnitude needs to be in deep water, so 50 miles up the river or less toward the mouth of the river is where this facility needs to be placed,” Showalter said. “The ships will have trouble navigating, so ship safety comes into play. You’ve got the lowering of the Mississippi River when it gets to its lowest points to bring ships up here, and then you’ve got an issue about turning those ships at the current site.”

“The only reason why they didn’t look at other places outside that is because they don’t control the site. They control Violet, but they don’t control anything 50 miles to the south on the Mississippi River, and they won’t attract shippers to come up the river with these big ships, it won’t happen.”

The port said it has implemented several changes to the plan after hearing community feedback, including buffers separating nearby residences, an overpass for cars to avoid railroad crossings and a drainage plan that includes a system of pumps, canals, and an onsite pumping station that will be managed by the Port.

Christian said container ships deliver the goods consumers count on, and that it will be necessary going forward into the future if the New Orleans region wants to stay competitive.

“Business as usual is just really not an option and that’s why this project is so critical. Not only does container shipping deliver goods to Louisiana grocery stores, the packages to our doorsteps,” she said, “but also (is critical) for the farmers in Louisiana getting their products to market, to the manufacturers of Louisiana getting their products to market.”

The port says the project is at the beginning of a federal permitting process. Construction is expected to begin in 20-25 months.

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