The Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership hosted Port of Houston Executive Director Colonel Leonard Waterworth at a membership meeting on Wednesday.
BAHEP Chair Richard Allen welcomed guests and elected officials; and introduced Waterworth. Listen
Waterworth reviewed the status of the port, including the recent favorable review by the Texas Sunset Commission staff, the revised plans for deepening the Bayport and Barbours Cut channels and plans to improve the accommodations that will come with larger ships from Europe and increased traffic from the Panama Canal when the expansion project is complete. Listen
“I contend that Houston is the nexus of the next great economic expansion because of the legacy that was left to us over a hundred years ago and the success that we all have developed here in Houston,” Waterworth said.
In a question and answer session, Waterworth talked about issues related to storm surge and steps that the port is taking to protect its facilities along the Houston Ship Channel. He reviewed his work on the six-county Gulf Coast Community Protection and Recovery District when he was president of Dannenbaum Engineering.
“The problem is, no money,” he said, referring to the Ike Dike and other surge protection proposals. “When you start to look at solutions like that, we are starting to talk about billion dollar solutions in times of economic crisis.”
Questioned about significant federal support for the New Orleans levee system, Waterworth declined to discuss federal policy, staying focused on the Port of Houston.
“We’re doing our best to make sure that our eight facilities on the channel are protected and the people are available to ‘stand up’ the port as quickly as possible,” he said, adding that $300 million per day would be lost if the Houston Ship Channel is shut down. “In fact, I tell folks if we have a storm coming up our channel, we don’t measure it in dollars, we measure it in percentages of GDP of the nation.”
Although Waterworth declined to discuss federal policy, BAHEP President Bob Mitchell, who thanked Waterworth for his presentation, was critical of federal priorities, noting that the federal government spent $17.5 billion to build a levee system around New Orleans.
“We can’t get the federal government to listen to us,” Mitchell said, suggesting that a coalition of interests on the Texas Gulf Coast should be formed to work for a storm surge protection system. “What I ask people is, do we have more assets? You talk about the GDP. Can you imagine what is going to happen if we lose 46 percent of our jet fuel, 27 percent of our gas, 50 percent of our feed stock in the entire United States, if we have that kind of a flood.
The meeting was held at the Bay Oaks Country Club.