The Port of Iberia’s Board of Directors spent an hour and 15 minutes in executive session Thursday afternoon discussing the performance of its personal services contract with longtime Port of Iberia Legal Counsel Raymond Allain and the port’s legal services contract with Allain’s law firm, Allain and Allain.

Although that portion of the special meeting was held behind closed doors, the voices became loud enough to be heard from the Port of Iberia lobby at several points during the session, which was scheduled to take 40 minutes.

After more than twice the scheduled time, the board ended the executive session and announced that there was no action taken during the closed portion of the meeting. They then voted to table the consideration of the legal services contract with Allain and Allain.

The board also heard an update on preparations for the anticipated Commercial Canal dredging that would mark the beginning of the Acadiana-Gulf of Mexico Access Channel (AGMAC) project.

According to O’neil Malbrough of GIS Engineering, the first lowered pipeline, for Boardwalk Pipeline Company, is basically complete and ready to reopen, well ahead of schedule.

“We hope to have it flowing on Monday,” Marlborough told the board. “We have some testing to do. There’s a couple of things that need to happen. But we are ahead of schedule.”

Under previous outlines for the project, the first lowered pipeline was not set to be complete until May.

Marlborough also told the board that the additional right of way that was anticipated for the Prairie Contractors property adjacent to the Kinder Morgan pipeline lowering, the third and final one planned before dredging can begin, will likely not be needed.

“I took the Kinder Morgan manager over to meet with the operations manager at Prairie,” Port of Iberia Executive Director Craig Romero said. “They are good tenants. They are going to do what they have to do to make this work. There won’t be an adjustment to their lease.”

The lowering of the three pipelines below the existing — and proposed — channel bottom is the last step before dredging begins on the AGMAC project. That project entails dredging of a 16-foot deep channel all the way from the port to the Gulf of Mexico via the Intracoastal Canal. It also would require dredging more than 14 miles of the Commercial Canal to meet the Intracoastal south of the port.

The goal of the project is to open up the Port of Iberia to heavier projects, both for ships of deeper draft coming in and larger fabricated items, like rigs and modules for industrial applications, to go out.

The longterm goal of the AGMAC work is to have the channel dredged to a 20-foot depth from the port to the Gulf of Mexico.

The idea of making the Port of Iberia accessible to larger craft is not a new one. Discussions about the AGMAC project go back almost a decade, with incremental steps being taken each year or two to get the work to this point, where the way is cleared to begin digging the channel.

Once the last of the pipelines has been lowered, the dredging of the Commercial Canal channel between the port and the Intracoastal Waterway will begin. According to Romero, two dredges will be working on the channel, with completion of the project expected in eight to 10 months at a cost of between $14 million and $16 million.

The total cost for the project is expected to be $34 million.

Dwayne Fatherree is the community editor for The Daily Iberian. He can be reached at dwayne.fatherree@daily-iberian.com.

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