Plaquemines Port purchases land for $9.5 million

After 60 years of existence, the Plaquemines Port Harbor and Terminal District has finally acquired land to build a port.

The agency bought a 550-acre tract just south of Myrtle Grove for $9.5 million in a deal that closed last week.

The tract was part of a 26-mile stretch that was once considered as the site for the massive Millennium Port, which was proposed during the administration of former Gov. Mike Foster.

“We were a port in name only,” said Maynard J. “Sandy” Sanders, executive director of the Plaquemines Port. “We never owned any land and we provided fire and rescue service.”

The land purchased was financed by a 3-mill property tax for port operations.

Now the port is looking to develop the site, which has nearly 1.5 miles of frontage along the Mississippi River.

The land is in a strategic location. Plaquemines is the first port in the Mississippi River if you’re coming from the Gulf of Mexico.

“That means a tremendous amount to importers and exporters, because they can get turned around a lot faster,” Sanders said.

The port hopes to develop the land for a tenant or co-develop it with a tenant.

“We’re willing to talk to anybody,” said Dale Benoit, who is helping the port with marketing. “It would work with a variety of industrial type projects.”

The port site has a number of advantages besides proximity to the Gulf of Mexico. The New Orleans & Gulf Coast Railway, a subsidiary of Rio Grande Pacific, is talking about extending its rail line to the port. The line now stops 5 miles north of the port site. And the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has authorized plans to bring the levees in the area up to standards.

Officials from the U.S. Maritime Administration, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development and the State Treasurer’s office will be in Belle Chasse next week to hear a presentation from the port about developing the site. In January, port officials will meet with members of the state’s Congressional delegation.

“We’re betting all this interest will lead to some public-private partnerships,” Sanders said. “A lot of folks are very interested, but they were sitting on the sidelines until we could pull this land purchase off.”

Activity is already going on in the area around the port site. International Marine Terminals is expanding a nearby coal terminal, while Ram Terminals is planning a facility and the 5 million barrel NOLA Oil Terminal is under development.

“We’re not going to get too far ahead of our pocketbook,” Sanders said. “We’re building this port brick by brick as needed with room to expand. We have a unique opportunity to do this right.”