Vidalia Port Deputy Director Bryant Killen outlined the progress and future plans for the Vidalia Port during a talk to the Ferriday Rotary Club on August 19.
He said Phase 1 of the port project was completed in March, including the high speed bulk facility, scale system, grain dump pit and conveyor to river. The 800-foot long conveyor can dump a truck in two minutes, he said.
Phase 2 includes the slack water slip, which is in the permitting phase.
A railroad development district is also in the works, he said, that would reestablish an abandoned line from Tallulah to Vidalia.
“We are considered a land lord port, as is 99 percent of the other ports in Louisiana,” he said.
“We lease land and infrastructure that we create to a terminal operator and tenants. We develop and manage assets which directly impact job creation and tax creation with our main objective to establish a more resilient community and region through infrastructure.”
Killen outlined the following phases:
Phase 1-complete in March and features:
-- High speed bulk loading facility to service the agriculture community.
-- Essentially what this is a scales system, a grain dump pit, and a conveyor to barge.
-- Main conveyor is 800’ long with a belt width of 4’ wide. It has the capacity of loading out 1500 tons an hour at river fluctuations of 14-54'. To put it in perspective it can dump a truck in 2 minute. It is by far the fastest grain loading facility between BR and Memphis.
-- This infrastructure was built not to compete with local commercial grain entities but to compliment them.
-- Local elevators in the Delta were built in the 70s and 80s. A lot of things have changed since then, particularly technology around varieties and furthermore their yields.
-- What is subsequently seen is longer waits for trucks to dump at elevators. Some lasting up to 5 hours.
-- By utilizing the port could cut those wait times by a substantial amount of time.
-- The peak harvest coincides with peak hurricane season. Hours a day in the field can turn into weeks on the back end of harvest. This could be the determining factor between missing a storm or getting hit by one.
Phase 2- Slack water slip
“We are currently in the permitting phase of this project,” he said. “Description-cut from Mississippi River to USACOE borrow pit. Then we would dredge the pit to a specified depth and then use dredge material from borrow pit to create working pad that we would then lease out to businesses that would have a use for transporting cargo via barge where on-loading and offloading would have zero current.”
He said the port priority program was created in the late 80s early 90s with funding coming from the fuel tax. It currently has an annual budget of $39.5 million. Projects are eligible to be funded up to $15 million for construction only.
“For this phase, we will round the funding out with several federal grants in which we will use the Port Priority money as it’s match,” he said.
“We have three criteria to achieve to obtain permit approval by the USACOE -- seepage analysis, slope stability analysis, and independent peer review. If we pass we will go into full design and start the bidding process.”
Railroad Development District
“We have been working on the creation of a railroad development district which would re-establish the abandon line from Tallulah south to Vidalia,” he said. “This proposed district would encompass East Carroll, Madison, Tensas, and Concordia parishes. We feel very strongly that having short line rail service back down here would further create resiliency, bring jobs and more tax creation.
“When I say resiliency, I’m meaning options. The year 2011 the Mississippi River was at an all-time high. 2012 all-time low. A lot of activity was hampered or was not permitted on the river during those times. Having a second option in anything is critical in the sustainability of any community.
“I’m not just talking about the ag sector that rail would affect positively. Rail is one of the first criteria on a checklist that Louisiana Economic Development asks when a company looking at a site to expand or relocate. If you don’t have a port or rail, you will have a tough time competing for a project.
“We are really excited about all the projects we have going on. Obviously we would love to have 100 percent community buy in and support on them all.”