Port of Iberia projects to add acreage

Officials at the Port of Iberia have completed a project that adds hundreds of acres of waterfront property with much of the new developed acreage already scooped up by companies who want direct waterway access to the Gulf of Mexico’s oil and gas fields.

Meanwhile, another port project — a long-sought deeper waterway to the Gulf that could lead to bigger projects for the fabricators and other companies at the port — remains on south Louisiana’s wish list.

The port’s Board of Commissioners recently accepted the work overseen by CB&I that added more than 200 acres of bulk-head waterfront property to the port’s existing 3,500 acres. All the waterfront property at the port, which is two miles south of New Iberia, is man-made.

CB&I engineer Glenn Ledet said the project that started in 2011 extends a slip 2,000 feet beyond where it stopped.

The slip is 200 feet wide and 13 to 14 feet deep, a depth consistent with the port’s other man-made waterways.

Ledet said all that remains is taking care of a punch list of finishing touches.

Companies already have signed up to occupy the added waterfront lots, which cost the public agency $7 million to build, said Roy Pontiff, Port of Iberia executive director.

Pontiff said the port owns 108 acres on one side of the new slip, and the owners of Sterling Sugar, which had owned all the land used in the addition, will develop the other 108 acres on the opposite bank.

One of the companies that could set up shop is LBC Port, a new company started by Louisiana Blasting and Coating owner Dale Behan. Behan said he’s looking at building a facility that could accommodate a fabrication company along with his paint shop.

Behan owns a facility on Coteau Road where there is no access to waterfront property.

Louisiana Blasting and Coating also has a yard at the port, which is situated away from the water.

“I’m excited about the possibilities this opens up for us,” Behan said.

Meanwhile, Pontiff said, he and the port’s board continue pursuing what would be a massive U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project to deepen the waterway connecting the port to the Gulf of Mexico.

In a 2006 study, the corps said deepening and widening the waterway to the Gulf would help companies at the port win deepwater contracts to construct massive decks and other components needed in thousands of feet of water.

The corps said Port of Iberia fabricators such as Dynamic Industries and Omega Natchiq were at a disadvantage to other fabrication ports along the Gulf Coast.

For instance, Gulf Island Fabricators in Houma can float their projects down a 19-foot-deep Houma Navigation Canal; fabricator Kiewit near Corpus Christi, Texas, operates near the 45-foot-deep La Quinta Channel, and Technip, also near Corpus Christi, ships its finished components south on the Corpus Christi Channel, also 45 feet deep.

“The completion of a deeper and wider navigation channel to accommodate the transportation of the fabricated structures will allow the companies who make them remain competitive,” the corps said in the study.

Pontiff said the project was halted after its original budget of $160 million soared to $462 million.

The traditional dredging using a crane and a bucket proved problematic because the silt and mud dug up would have to be double-handled.

Pontiff said the port and its backers are pushing a hydraulic digging method that could greatly reduce the cost.

“I’m having weekly conversations with our congressional delegation,” Pontiff said.