The Port of Beaumont Navigation District is currently developing the approximately 455 acres of property it owns on the north bank of the Neches River in Orange County, said John Roby, director of customer service for the port.

“Initial development of the property began in 1999 with the award of a federal grant that provided $1 million for construction of a sheet pile bulkhead for bank stabilization and future wharf protection,” Roby said. “The grant was supplemented with additional funds provided by the district to construct basic road and utility improvements on the property.”

In 2008 the port awarded a $22 million contract for construction of a heavy-duty, pile supported deepwater wharf and other improvements that will enable ocean-going ships to provide international shipping services to the site.

“That new wharf was opened for business in November, 2009, and has proven to be very successful,” Roby said. “Elected officials from Orange County, port officials and business leaders gathered on the sparkling new concrete deck of the 650-foot-long wharf to watch the ocean vessel BBC Colorado discharge a cargo of steel billets for use at the Gerdau Ameristeel Beaumont plant. The billets were shipped from a steel mill in Brazil and will be used by the Beaumont mill to make wire rod.  Officials cut a ceremonial ribbon commemorating the completion of the new wharf, which marks a significant milestone in the port’s almost 100-year history.”

The port previously received funding under the 2005 SAFETEA-LU bill in Congress for construction of an access road leading from the district’s property to Interstate 10. The road will cross port-owned property north of the major east-west railroad main lines that serve Southeast Texas. After crossing the tracks, the road will lead to existing roadways already under construction on the port’s property.

“The port is committed to growth and development on our Orange County property,” Roby said. “We expect to begin work this year on a new connection to existing railroads and hope to announce construction of new facilities on the site soon. All of this progress results in jobs and economic impact for the county and municipalities in the region.

The deepwater wharf is part of a total of $60 million in capital improvement projects underway or recently completed at the Port of Beaumont. Other projects planned for the Orange County site include construction of open cargo storage lots and road and rail infrastructure. The port has received $4 million in funding from the Economic Development Administration toward a $5.5 million project to link the port’s property to existing railroads. Another $4 million will be spent to construct an access road connecting the new wharf to Interstate 10. That project received $2.5 million under the Surface Transportation bill in 2005, under a measure jointly sponsored by U.S. Reps. Kevin Brady and Ted Poe.