The Willacy County Navigation District/Port Mansfield was fortunate enough to receive significant Work Plan Funds in the2024 Operational Budget for the Army Corp of Engineers Galveston Sector. The Work Plan was released by Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) around May 15 and allocated $15.9 million dollars to reopen the Mansfield Jetty’s, clear the navigational channel and create new dredge material disposal facilities. This decision was based upon the WCND constant communication with the White House, Congressional Leadership and the Army Corp at Sector Galveston and Regional Command in Dallas/Ft Worth.


The dredging project is a very exhaustive and time-consuming process costing the district and its lessees hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.  In addition to the Executive Port Director, the District has a Public Policy Advocate that promotes the needs of the port to elected officials who also worked to have the Work Plan disclosed to the Navigation District as we had not heard about it when it was released. These two members work alongside the WCND’s contracted engineering firm that, on a fulltime basis, develops plans for dredging and sediment placements that meet not only our dredging needs for depth but includes environmental and placement concerns in our ongoing relationships with our neighboring State and Federal partners landowners in the Laguna Madre. Receiving these funds took a lot of work both internally and externally and the Willacy County Navigation District is grateful to have been chosen to receive funding. With all of that said and with the unexpected surprise and excitement of being given the opportunity to further develop the port, I now find it necessary to clarify the reality of the process to receive these funds.


Before the gossip columns and naysayers begin their rants about the Corp provided funding without commercial development, I have attached the direct quotes of the Galveston Sector Commander, the Assistant Secretary of the Army who chose to fund the project and the Galveston Sector Public Affairs Officers.  All of these individuals indicate that the project would not have been funded had the commercial leases not been signed and implemented.


Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District


“Port Mansfield has long been prepared to embrace growth and opportunity. With the recent appropriation of$15.9 million from Congress, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is eager to contribute to the port's future success."
 “A workplan appropriation is an important recognition in the ongoing effort to sustain the growth and development of this unique port. With its strategic location near the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW), the port offers significant opportunities for future maritime operations and economic diversification.”
“The FY2024 funding authorizes USACE to move forward, in a sustainable way, with stakeholders on developing the local dredging plan and determining dredge material placement areas. Over the coming months, we intend to restore the depth and width of the channel, which will enhance Port Mansfield’s key role in the local economy and the broader maritime landscape.”


Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works


“The FY 2024 Work Plan for Army Civil Works continues this administration’s ongoing commitment to fund crucial infrastructure projects and build resilience in a changing climate. Its investments in our coastal ports and inland waterways will strengthen the economy and help maintain our farmers’ competitive advantage in the global marketplace,”


USACE SWG Chief of Public Affairs


“Evidence of existing commercial contracts is an important factor in determining local stakeholder commitment during the budgeting process at the highest levels of government. Government/Public confidence in funding infrastructure projects increases when communities and non-federal entities also invest in their future. Coastal ports and inland waterways are often where the rubber meets the road when strengthening the economy and building for the future.”

To emphasize how critical and needed the funding is, it should be noted that the dredging of the channel and Cut is essential to everyone working and living in and around Port Mansfield or enjoying the leisure and sporting activities of the Laguna Madre. Those who lived through or were affected directly or indirectly by Hurricane Harvey in 2017 should remember that we had a 280-foot dive vessel, grounded for 28 days attempting to outrun the storm, which ran aground in the Cut in what was then approximately 6 feet of water midchannel. By July 2022 the Army Corp had successfully dredge the Cut to 23 feet, by January 2023 it was at 13feet and now is around 9 feet or less. This dredging effort absolutely must be done to allow for the passage of commercial vessels, whose transit activity will definitely assist in keeping the Cut and Channel clear, but equally important will allow marine life to flourish with the exchange of water from the Laguna Madre and Gulf of Mexico.  If those vessels do not begin transiting the Cut shortly after this dredging project is completed, I project, based upon 45years of maritime experience, current shoaling rates will lead to an situation where no more than 4 years the Cut being not just heavily shoaled but closed to near pre-1960 levels of blockage.

Local Commentators always talk about a mysterious Plan B that must exist and - as touched upon in a previous article - Plan B actually does exist. According to the Army Corp Project Manager in Galveston it would require $5M every 18 months to keep the Jetty’s clear if there were no commercial traffic passing through the Cut and thus no Corp funds could be allocated to maintain it.  That translates into an across the board increase of $7,000 annually for every residential or commercial leaseholder in Port Mansfield to generate the funds to pay for the patchwork repairs.  That lease rate would not cover the maintenance requirements to maintain the harbor channel from the Laguna into port nor the harbor entrance which was shoaled to 4 feet as recently as 2021.

In the end, the money has already been allocated due to the expected boost to the local economy that a port can have and the Willacy County Navigation District will endeavor to work with federal and state agencies to complete the dredging project as quickly as scheduling allows. We offer an enormous thank you and congratulations to everyone involved in obtaining the funding that will help shape the future of the port and, in turn, the rest of Willacy County.