IBERIA PARISH, La. (KLFY) – A $90 million dredging project in Iberia parish is underway. It’s a project more than 20 years in the making. The goal is to attract larger ships to the Port of Iberia. Bigger ships mean more commerce, and more jobs for Acadiana.

State and local leaders cut the ribbon on the project on the dredging barge doing the work in the 53-mile long Acadiana Gulf of Mexico Access Channel on Thursday morning. “Today, I’ve never felt better. This is exciting,” said Port of Iberia Executive Director Craig Romero. “The port has been pursuing this project well before Craig Romero got on the scene at the Port of Iberia. They laid the groundwork. I was on third base. All I had to do it steal home.”

The dredging will take the commercial channel from 12 feet to 16 feet, up to the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway, to allow larger vessels to come to the port. “It’s fabulous for all of Acadiana,” said Sen. Fred Mills, (R) District 22 – New Iberia. “It will add jobs to the area, and secondary businesses. Businesses will be attracted to the port. If we have a deeper canal, we can attract businesses we can’t attract.”

This project is more than two decades in the making. Romero says it will lay the foundation to grow commerce, bring in more companies and spin-off businesses to the 4,000 acre industrial and manufacturing port, and create jobs.

“This could effectively bring in 1,500 to 2,000 new jobs,” said Sen. Page Cortez, (R) District 23 – Lafayette. “These are well-paying jobs to the Acadiana region, supported by state funding. It’s a tremendous economic development impact to the area.”

The first phase of the project costs $38 million to dredge and lower pipelines under the port. The second phase costs $55 million dollars.