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HOUSTON-Anticipating double-digit growth for the next 20 years, governing teams for the ports of Houston and Galveston are joining forces to develop a master plan for growth. The focus is development and use of 1,120 acres bought in 2001 on Pelican Island.

Although construction won’t begin until 2015 when the Bayport Terminal will be fully built out, a spokeswoman for the Port of Houston says the agreement between the two ports means the planning process can start immediately to make plans to expand container-handling capacities. “The idea of planning is to determine what happens in 20 years when our facilities reach capacity,” she says, explaining why the ports are starting so soon. “It took us 10 years from concept to opening of Bayport.”

The spokeswoman says both ports are projected to have double-digit growth in cargo shipments in the next two decades. The Port of Houston handled 200 million tons of cargo last year, according to its website.

The spokeswoman says the double-digit growth could be conservative. “Until we know how the Panama Canal will impact trade coming through Houston, that amount could be larger, but we have no way of verifying that,” she adds.

The port boards bought the 1,120 acres for $6.1 million. The spokeswoman tells GlobeSt.com that planning is beginning now because Pelican Island, just north of Galveston, is largely uninhabited. She points out that the land for the Bayport Container Facility was purchased in 1965 when there were few restrictions because there weren’t many residential sites around it.

“We have to look at planning and phasing in now, when there is little or no residential life on Pelican” the spokeswoman says. “That way, when and if people consider it as a place to live, they already realize there will be an industrial facility there.”

The port boards’ agreement stipulates financing and development for a Pelican Island facility won’t get under way until Houston’s Bayport Container Terminal is fully built out. It’s projected the additional container-handling terminal will need to be operational in 10 to 15 years, according to a press release about the joint venture.

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