Los Fresnos News

NextDecade to Invest Millions in Brownsville Ship Channel

Officials during the funding agreement ceremony at the Port of Brownsville. Courtesy photo

by Tony Vindell/LFN

A new era of more cooperation between the private and public sectors has begun.

NextDecade Corp., or a liquified natural gas company planning to construct and operate a new plant project, has committed to fund the deepening of the Brazos Island Harbor Channel.

In local parlance, the channel is better known as the Brownsville Ship Channel, or a 19-mile stretch from the port to past the jetties.

NextDecade as well as the Environmental Protection Agency, county, city, state and Brownsville Navigation District officials were on hand for a signing ceremony held Wednesday, April 24 in the commissioners’ boardroom.

Among them were Dan Bruillette, US. Deputy Secretary of Energy; Texas Secretary of State David Whitley and Matt Schatzman, president and chief executive officer with NextDecade.

“The BIH funding agreement we are signing today represents another important step towards realizing the incredible potential for large-scale job creation in Cameron County,” Schatzman said.

“Under the terms of the funding agreement, NextDecade will privately fund key improvements to the Brownsville Ship Channel. These improvements will benefit existing Port tenants and pave the way for future development of the Port.”

The Houston-based company plans to pump millions of dollars for the channel deepening project as well as widening the area near the entrance of the channel to make it safer for ships coming in and going out.

The current depth of the ship channel is 42 feet and the upcoming project expected to start in the first half of 2020 will give the channel an additional 10 feet of depth.

According to NextDecade, completion of the project is scheduled for 2023.

Ed Campirano the port’s director, described the funding agreement as a huge step in the right direction.

“This is a monumental project,” he said. “This is heading toward a successful completion.”

Campirano said the cost of the deepening of the ship channel has been estimated at around $350 million.

“They could fund as much as half of that,” he said, referring to the agreement.

“This commitment from NextDecade is very significant.”