Obama signs on Vidalia port

Published 12:14 am Tuesday, December 22, 2009

VIDALIA — With the President’s signature on the 2010 Omnibus spending bill late last week, the Vidalia port — in a way — became law.

A $1.5 million appropriation for the construction of an access road from the port to Louisiana 131 was included in the bill, and the funds will be used for the first real construction on the long-planned loading and unloading facility on the Mississippi River.

The funds will be directed to the project through the U.S. Department of Transportation, Concordia Economic Development Director Heather Malone said.

Email newsletter signup

“We will have to apply for a non-competitive grant through that department,” she said. “That means they can only use (the funds) for us, but we still have to fill out the paperwork.”

While Malone said the work would begin in the next year, she said the timeline was still fuzzy and that things would become clearer once a federal project manager was assigned to the project to guide the project coordinators through the funding process.

“At this point we are not even sure what type of funding it will be, if we will have to pay for it upfront and get reimbursed, or if we will get (the funds) right away,” Malone said.

The project already has another $1.2 million that was allocated it by the U.S. Economic Development Administration, but that cannot be used until construction begins.

Following the road construction, the next phase of the project would likely be the alteration of an extant dike in the Mississippi River.

“The point of the dike is to make the water flow a certain way,” Malone said. “It will keep the current from coming into our little slack water area.”

From there, the next phase would be the construction of a loading pad, which Malone said would contain a bulkhead dock and structures that would allow barges to tie off and load and unload from the river.

While the planning is still under way, however, Malone said those working with the project are consulting with local agriculture businesses to determine what kind of equipment would be necessary to work with them.

“We definitely want to accommodate agriculture because that is our biggest industry,” Malone said.

“We may have to do this a little bit at a time, but at least we will know what our needs are.”