Proposed Neches River fleeting area improves safety, environment, economy, and supports local schools

Editorial by Paul and Elizabeth Gerecht

A critical opinion piece recently published in this newspaper was lacking in facts and veracity about the Neches River fleeting area proposed by Thousand Foot Cut Marine Services (TFC), and we would like to set the record straight. We have tried to sit patiently and bite our tongues, but the misinformation being spread by Mr. Tom Bell needs to cease. By spreading falsehoods about TFC and their fleeting operation, Mr. Bell is indirectly attacking us, our family members, and our commitment to protecting the Bessie Heights Marsh.

We are the owners of property attached to the proposed fleeting area along the Neches River. As the grandchildren of Edgar W. Brown III, our family has had a very long history in and deep ties to Orange County for over a century. As owners of a large section of the Marsh area, we are both strongly in favor of protecting the environment, our property, and the shoreline. We have fought hard to keep the Bessie Heights area and our property pristine. TFC has leases with us and our family for all of the waterfront property used by the fleet, and they have installed industry-accepted infrastructure and have established well-developed procedures to ensure the local habitat, environment, waterway, and landowners’ rights are protected. To my knowledge, the only vocal opponents to this proposed fleeting area are those who either work for a competing company that wish to restrict any potential competitors like TFC from entering the market or, like Mr. Bell, have close ties to the owners of these companies trying to maintain their monopoly on barge fleeting in the County.

The proposed TFC fleeting area is safer and better for the environment by ensuring that barges are not illegally moored, or “pushed-in,” along the adjacent shoreline. As part of the permitting process, a Texas General Land Office biologist and other experts have toured the facility, and a leading global provider of environmental, health, and safety consulting services has conducted a comprehensive review of the area.

With significant growth in the petrochemical industry and increased barge traffic, this fleeting area benefits local area refiners and barge companies by providing a safe place to temporarily park barges while they wait for time and availability at the various docks up and down the Neches River.

The proposed fleet will support and grow the local economy and provide family-wage jobs, drive American energy independence, and generate significant income for our local schools. Limiting the development of this fleeting area runs the risk of impacting barge traffic and local industry – which is not only detrimental to the local economy, but will raise prices for area fleeting, effectively increasing costs that all of us pay for the end products and commodities being transported by barges.

Marine transportation is the safest mode of mobile transportation as documented by numerous trade organizations, including the American Waterways Operators Association. In fact, since the implementation of double-hulled regulations by the U.S. Coast Guard and adoption of best practices by the barge industry, spill incidents are among the lowest in the world. More importantly, barges that are moored in designated, regulated fleeting areas are much less likely to cause a spill than vessels navigating along the waterway.

For more information and to submit a letter in support of this important project, please visit www.supportnechesfleet.com.

Sincerely,

Paul and Elizabeth Gerecht

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