Congresswoman Mayra Flores Visits Port of Harlingen
Congresswoman Mayra Flores, R-TX, met with representatives from the Port of Harlingen and the Port Isabel- San Benito Navigation District (“PISBND”), Wednesday, Aug. 17, during her inaugural visit to the Port of Harlingen.
Flores met with Port of Harlingen Commissioners Alan Johnson, Neil Haman, Bryan Duffy, Ryan Newman and Chris Villarreal; Port Director Walker Smith, and PISBND Director Steve Bearden to discuss federal related issues in infrastructure, economic impact, channel operations and maintenance, funding needs and resources, as well as the current status of pending projects and grants.
“We are very excited to be able to have a discussion with our new congresswoman and to be able to show her how the Port of Harlingen has grown and its economic importance,” Johnson said.
“I want to see my district grow and it is clear that transportation and especially our ports are key in economic development and not only keeping our workforce here but expanding it,” U.S. Rep. Flores said. “With four ports in district 34, it is important to know as much as I can about their resource needs and be their voice in Washington so they (the ports) can make an even bigger impact for the betterment of our region.”
The Port of Harlingen is a multi-modal, shallow draft, inland port, celebrating its 70th year in operation, and serving primarily breakbulk and liquid bulk products including liquid fertilizer, cotton, sorghum, corn, sand and aggregate, diesel, gasoline, ethanol and raw sugar. In 2021, the port brought in more than 3 million tons of goods through its facilities. Over the last five years, tonnage has increased 211% due mostly to the increase in petroleum export to Mexico.
Smith and Commissioner Duffy said the biggest challenges facing the ports are funding for infrastructure and channel maintenance.
“Waterways are a lot like roads in that with use and time, they need maintenance. They fill up with sediment that makes it difficult to navigate,” Commissioner Duffy said.
Smith added that the loss of the depth of a channel due to the lack of maintenance and dredging means the loss of ability for ships to use the channel, which equates to the loss of business, jobs and money coming into the area.
“Dredging is one of our most vital needs for general operations,” Smith said. “But funding these projects has become the biggest challenge for ports across the state and nation. Additional federal funding is essential to address some major problems with the supply chain issues in terms of transport every industry is experiencing.”
Flores said the visit was an affirmation of the work needed to bring more resources to the area and the importance ports are playing in our region.
“Our workforce is a huge priority for me and we need to work to bring resources to our district,” Flores said. “This is why these meetings and discussions are so important to know what the needs are and how it connects in the bigger picture of what will make our region prosper. Ports are a big piece of that, they bring jobs and goods, both of which are essential for economic success.”