A $466,317 state Department of Transportation grant will produce as many as five new jobs at a Lowndes County port and increase efficiency and possibly production at one of the county’s largest employers.
The grant will add a second 250-foot rail extension and crane at the West Bank Port operated by WATCO.
Initially, the track extension will allow the existing crane to slide down and offload a second barge without having to wait for barges to move in and out. Once the second crane is installed, the Port can offload two barges at once, increasing the amount of scrap provided to Steel Dynamics by at least 20 percent, according to Lowndes County Port Authority Director Will Sanders.
‘It’ll add three to five jobs at the Port. And it will dramatically increase efficiency serving Steel Dynamics. They want to be able to bring in as much scrap as possible and this adds to their production potential,” Sanders said, referring to WATCO Inc., which offloads barges at the current operation on Old Macon Road just south of Highway 182 on the west side of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.
“We appreciate MDOT understanding the value of this investment in the Port and our local industries,” Sanders added, noting the additional tonnage could mean more revenues for the Port Authority to pump back into more jobs-producing infrastructure.
“We’re happy to be a part of the ongoing economic development in the Golden Triangle,” added Port Authority Board President Charles L. Miller, who praised Sanders for his work obtaining the grant.
According to Port estimates, the total project will cost $476,317 and take about a year to complete. The Port Authority will put up matching funds.
Construction should begin early this fall.
“These improvements will make the Lowndes County Port more efficient and allow for increased throughput,” said Golden Triangle Development Link CEO Joe Max Higgins Jr. “The more product moved on the Tenn-Tom, the stronger the waterway becomes as an asset for our region.”
The Tenn-Tom Water Development Authority helped promote the application because of the impact it will have expanding opportunities. Increased tonnage and barge trips through locks is one of the major gauges the Corps of Engineers uses for grant formulas and funding decisions.
The Lowndes County Port was approved by the board of supervisors in 1985 and became operational in 1987. It has become one of the most active multimodal transportation hubs in Northeast Mississippi. Its two barge terminals on the east and west banks of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway serve the shipping needs of industries and producers in the Golden Triangle area and those adjoining counties in Mississippi and West Alabama.