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Southeast Texas voters to decide fate of Sabine-Neches Waterway deepening project Saturday

Proposition A focuses on deepening the Sabine-Neches Waterway so ships can carry more products to our ports and plants.

BEAUMONT, Texas — Voters across Texas hit the polls to decide the fate of two statewide propositions.

12News is your election headquarters, and Saturday, May 7 is the day.

Here at home, Southeast Texans will be voting in a bunch of city and school elections.

People in Port Arthur will vote for mayor. In Bridge City, two school bonds are on the ballot.

Voters in Jefferson County will find another proposition on the ballot.

Proposition A focuses on deepening the Sabine-Neches Waterway, so ships can carry more products to our ports and plants.

This Sabine-Neches Waterway deepening project has been in the works since 1997.

Now, it's on the ballot in Jefferson County. If voters approve, it could bring more commerce and jobs to the area.

The Sabine-Neches Waterway is one of the largest Marine Highways in the country and the third busiest shipping channel in the country.

"We're deepening it from, deepening the Sabine-Neches Waterway from 40 to 48 feet," Matthew Kaufman said.

Kaufman runs the Sabine Neches Navigation District.

He said the deepening project was authorized in 2014, and construction began in 2019. But, he needs voters to sign off a proposition to help fund it.

"We'll do that in basically two phases, so we'll go half depth all the way to the Port of Beaumont and then come back in and finish that out all the way back to the Port of Beaumont again," Kaufman said.

The plan is to deepen the waterway from 40 to 48 feet to accommodate larger ships. It's been 60 years since it was last improved.

"A large percentage of the ships are light loading as they come up and down the river, so they're not using their full capacity," Kaufman said.

Kaufman said with fuel prices high, they're looking at a way to move more product up and down the waterway with fewer ships.

"There's always going to be a congestion issue when you have a busy channel and when you can move the same amount of cargo with fewer ships, you'll reduce the ship count and move more cargo," Kaufman said.

Kaufman said he envisions a 60-40 split between federal and local funding.

He said this will not raise taxes. If voters approve, it will take roughly six years to complete.

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