Improvements Could Come To Port of Morehead City

Nov 10, 2014

Credit NC State Ports Authority

The  Governor recently announced plans to make the port in Morehead City more globally competitive by deepening the channel to 50 feet and developing underutilized properties, such as Radio Island. 

Improvements could be coming to the state ports in Wilmington and Morehead City.  Governor Pat McCrory recently announced a 25 year vision for infrastructure investment that would deepen the Beaufort Inlet and develop underutilized properties, in an effort to make the state more globally competitive.  However, no money has been allocated for these projects. 

“It’s a concept, it’s something that we’re exploring here at the Port’s level.”

Senior Director for External Affairs for the State Ports Authority Laura Blair.

“I can’t say definitively right now that the port of Morehead City is going to be deepened because it’s a process that’s involved here and so that’s something we’re looking at now but there’s no official Army Corp of Engineers study right now, so it’s years in the making.”

Credit NC State Ports Authority

On October 24th, North Carolina Department of Transportation Secretary Tony Tata visited the Crystal Coast to lay out Gov. McCrory’s plan.  It calls for deepening and widening the channels at both state ports to a depth of 50 feet, five feet deeper than the current authorized depth, to support the movements of the newest generation of shipping vessels.  Blair says North Carolina will join other East Coast states like Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia in seeking to deepen their ports.

“it opens up the ability for larger vessels to come in and then it gives businesses that locate around the port, it gives them more options in terms of getting their goods on a vessel and out of a port.”

Larger ships mean more goods will being exported out of North Carolina which translates into more economic impact for the state.  

“It’s making sure we’re able to get goods in and out of our facilities quickly and efficiently.”

The announcement to dredge the channel has already drawn criticism from some.  According to Carteret News Times, re-elected Representative for Jones and Carteret counties Pat McElraft said at last month’s meeting that dredging the channel would result in erosion on area beaches, causing damage to an environmentally sensitive area, and potentially impacting tourism.  While this is a valid concern, State Ports Authority official Laura Blair says part of the process of expanding a port is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will conduct an environmental impact study.

“Questions that Representative McElraft raised, those questions are thoroughly examined, thought out and planned for within the study phase.  So certainly, her questions would be ones that the Army Corps of Engineers would be paying particular attention to should any deepening project advance beyond the talking stages.”

The Governor’s 25 year vision also calls for improving highway connections to the coast, enhanced rail access to the Port of Morehead City, and the development of an intermodal train service at the Port of Wilmington.  Blair says the plan also examines how the State Ports Authority can better utilize property.

Aerial photo of Radio Island
Credit NC State Ports Authority

“One in particular in your area is Radio Island, which is next to the port of Morehead City.  The 25 year vision specifically calls for developing a public private partnership to develop that piece of property.”

Blair says it’s too soon to speculate what type of business could locate there. The transformation of the state ports would enhance an already successful economic engine for the state, which provides more than 76,000 jobs.

“Goods moving though the ports translates to 14 billion dollars of economic activity for the state of North Carolina.  So we like to say that North Carolina ports are the conduit to economic development.”

In addition to improvements at the state ports, Gov. Pat McCrory’s plan aims to stabilize inlets, replace aging bridges in the coastal region, and implement a long-range plan for sustainable beach nourishment.  To see the 25 year vision, go to www.ncdot.gov/ncvision25.