Senator Mary Landrieu along with Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz took a 'Coast on Call:Energy for Today and Tomorrow' tour to promote job creation through major ports in Louisiana.
The pair visited sites in New Orleans and Port Fourchon before making their final stop at the Port of Iberia. Landrieu and Senator David Vitter worked together to pass a recent provision that will allow the Port of Iberia to dredge its channel.
The Water Resources Development Act of 2014 will allow the plan to deepen the channel from 13-feet to 16-feet to become a reality, thanks to the allowance of new hydraulic dredging technology that lowers costs. Originally estimated at 400-million dollars to dredge the port, new technology could lower costs to 160-million dollars.
Landrieu toured the largest facility at the port, the Omega Natchiq Foundation Yard and discussed cost concerns further, explaining the number one challenge is funding infrastructure.
"We are fighting against all the port projects and dredging projects, locks and dams all over the country. There is only 4.6 billion dollars for the entire nation to share." Landrieu added almost 1-billion could be spent in Louisiana alone, with a couple hundred solely dedicated to the Port of Iberia. Her suggestions include a first-time revenue sharing with the federal government; re-directing money from off-shore rigs which bring in an estimated 6 to 8-billion dollars a year for the government.
"Just a small percentage of that could help dredged these ports, put the infrastructure in Port of Iberia, Fourchon and other ports in Louisiana," said Landrieu. Another suggestion included tapping into Restore Act funds and beefing up the budget for energy and water. Landrieu, who currently sits on the board of appropriations for energy and water said they are grossly short-changed and need the boost in their budget. While she firmly stated the suggestions could solve funding issues, she admitted the tough political battles they could fight in the future.
Moniz, a 40-year tenured professor at MIT, traveled side by side with Landrieu, visiting Fourchon and the Port of Iberia for the first time. Moniz, who Landrieu called a leading thinker on the subject of energy, added that without securing proper funding and moving forward quickly with dredging projects, Louisiana's major energy port will fall short of developing quick enough to produce.
"So how do we build our infrastructure? Whether it's oil and gas or fuel distribution? How do we build it smarter for the 21st century? To really understand the infrastructure you have to go where it is, you have to feel it, and understand it in order to grasp it.
"Landrieu agreed, "I believe there is an energy renaissance going on in America. New technologies are helping us to explore and manufacture parts that go into the energy, exploration, transportation and generation of this energy.
"Once dredging begins, the project is estimated to bring in an additional 125-million dollars annually to the Port of Iberia along with 1500 new permanent jobs.
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