Judge rejects Bayport injunction

Judge rejects Bayport injunction

A federal judge in Houston declined on Friday to issue a preliminary injunction blocking the Bayport Container and Cruise Terminal.

Instead, U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore scheduled a fast-track process on the merits of the plaintiffs' claim.

The process will begin in April and end with a decision May 4.

In return, the Port of Houston Authority agreed to delay construction of the terminal until Gilmore issues a ruling.

Opponents, including the City of Shoreacres, other local municipalities and organizations, filed the lawsuit in June 2003. Among other allegations, the plaintiffs contend that the Army Corps of Engineers' delineation of jurisdictional wetlands was improper.

The lawsuit did not name the port authority as a defendant; however, the agency filed a motion to intervene on behalf of the Corps.

Port Authority Chairman Jim Edmonds applauded Judge Gilmore's decision. "The plaintiffs' challenge is a weak effort to infringe on the port authority's rights and harm the region's economy and job base," he said.

"The port authority has drawn on expertise developed in other ports around the world to make the Bayport facility environmentally sound. We will continue to review our development plans as new environmental technologies and techniques evolve," he added.

The port authority and the Corps signed the federal permit for the project in January, marking a critical step in the process to build the $1.2 billion terminal. Phase 1A is designed to include 1,660 feet of the ultimate 7,000-foot wharf and approximately 65 acres of a planned 1,043-acre facility.

Pending the outcome of the federal court hearing and the start of construction, the facility's first phase is targeted to be operational in mid- to late 2006. Additional phases are planned to be built incrementally over several years, depending on market demand.