The National Defense Reserve Fleet (NRDF), under the custody of MARAD, is an inactive reserve source of basic Merchant design type ships that could be activated within 20 - 120 days to meet the shipping requirements of the United States during national emergencies. These merchant vessels are available for use in both military and non-military emergencies, such as commercial shipping crises. Ships in the NDRF are regionally located at three fleet sites - James River, VA (East Coast), Beaumont, TX (Gulf Coast), and Suisun Bay, CA (West Coast). Naval auxiliaries are maintained at the fleet by MARAD on a retention basis for the Navy.
No U.S. Government harbor facilities are maintained at the Port of Beaumont. The Maritime Administration has a restricted anchorage on the Neches River about 7 miles below Beaumont at the McFadden Bend Cut-off. Capable of holding over 200 large vessels, it provides good holding ground in mud and silt, but maximum draft is limited to 16 ft. Use of the Maritime Administration anchorage is restricted to vessels consigned to the Maritime Administration Reserve Fleet.
The Port of Beaumont has over 60 wharves and piers, but only 18 are deep-draft facilities. Of these, all but 8 are privately owned and operated, with alongside depths ranging from 32 to 40 ft and deck heights ranging from 10 to 16 ft. The Port of Beaumont Navigation District owns and operates the remaining 8 deep-draft facilities. Located on the west bank of the Neches River, alongside depths range from 30 to 40 ft with an average alongside depth near 36 ft. Deck heights are a uniform 16 ft.
The ports of Port Arthur, Beaumont, and Orange are located in the coastal section of extreme eastern Texas. Port Arthur is situated on the west bank of the Sabine-Neches Canal which borders the western edge of Sabine Lake. Beaumont is located some 15 miles northwest of Port Arthur on the Neches River, while Orange is about 18 miles northeast of Port Arthur on the Sabine River. Sabine Pass, which is the seaward entrance to Sabine Lake, Sabine Lake itself, and the Sabine River form the southern portion of the Texas-Louisiana border.
From the Gulf of Mexico, Sabine Pass is entered from a Safety Fairway passing through Sabine Bank Channel, a sea bar channel and a jetty channel. Federal project depths are 42 ft in the outer bar channel, thence 40 ft through the jetty channel and Sabine Pass. Inside the Jetties, Sabine Pass extends northwest about 6 miles to Sabine Lake, and the entrance to Port Arthur Canal. With an average depth of 6 ft, Sabine Lake is used only by small recreation and fishing vessels. Port Arthur Canal extends northwest for about 6 miles from Sabine Pass to Taylor Bayou, with project depths of 40 ft. The Neches River extends in a general west-northwesterly direction from its junction with the Sabine-Neches Canal for about 18.5 miles to the Port of Beaumont. Federal project depths on the Neches River are 40 ft to a 34-ft turning basin at Beaumont. The Sabine River extends northeastward from its junction with the Sabine-Neches Canal to the Port of Orange. The Federal project provides for depths of 30 ft in the channel to Orange, with 25 ft maintained in the channel around Orange Harbor Island (U.S. Department of Commerce, 1980). No bridges cross Sabine Pass, Port Arthur Canal, or Sabine-Neches Canal below Port Arthur. At Port Arthur, a fixed highway bridge with a clearance of 136 ft crosses the Sabine-Neches Canal approximately 1.8 miles above the entrance to Taylor Bayou. A highway bridge (Rainbow Bridge), with a clearance of 172 ft, crosses the Neches River about 1.5 miles above its mouth. No other bridges exist between Port Arthur and the turning basin at Beaumont, but overhead power cables with clearances of 164 ft cross the Neches River 50 yards east of Rainbow Bridge. Additional power cables cross the Neches River between its mouth and Beaumont but, in each case, the vertical clearance equals or exceeds 164 ft. No bridges cross the Sabine River between its mouth and Orange. An overhead power cable with a vertical clearance of 172 ft crosses the river about 3 miles below Orange
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