Beard honored in Austin for Navigation District work

See story on Port Arthur News website

The Port Arthur News
April 22, 2015

By Sherry Koonce

Paul Beard, chairman of the Sabine Neches Navigation District was honored in Austin Monday with a state resolution in recognition of his efforts to bring the waterway deepening project to fruition.

Paul Beard was surprised recently when he received a call asking for information about his service on the Sabine-Neches Navigation District board.

That information, he soon discovered, was to be included in a Resolution State Representative Joe Deshotel intended to have read on the House Floor in recognition of Beard’s efforts to bring about the Sabine-Neches Waterway deepening project, and to better the community in the process.

The Texas House of Representatives passed House Resolution 2040, which commends Beard for his outstanding leadership and longstanding commitment to the betterment of Southeast Texas.

“The community will benefit from people who sincerely dedicate themselves and their volunteer time. Paul has been doing that for many years; all the things he worked at basically is because he loves Southeast Texas,” Deshotel said from Austin Wednesday.

Beard traveled to the state capitol Monday, where Deshotel read the resolution on the House floor in front of the Honorable Speaker of the House Joe Straus, Rep-San Antonio, Sabine Neches General Manager Randall Reese, and Beard’s daughter and granddaughter.

In her grandfather’s honor, University of Texas student Brianna Barsalou rang the bell on the House Floor.

Beard, now 81, describes himself as an advocate of the maritime industry since he started working back in 1950.

“I just do what I can, and I am very pleased to have been a part of this,” Beard said.

Former County Judge Carl Griffith first appointed Beard to the Beaumont Navigation District board of directors in 1999. He collaborated with county commissioners and legislators to create the Sabine-Neches Navigation District, which operates and maintains the ship channel and navigable waters of Jefferson County.

Now in his third term, and after being appointed by two subsequent County Judges: Ron Walker and Jeff Branick, Beard is chairman of the Sabine-Neches Navigation board.

He hopes to see the day when actual digging begins on the deepening project he spearheaded since 1999.

Initially, when the Army Corps of Engineers began a study of the deepening project, it was thought the study would take four years.

Environmental issues delayed the study by years.

“We had to satisfy some 29 environmental agencies from Texas and Louisiana.

Finally, in 2014 the study was approved by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in June of that year.

Currently, while the Navigation District is working with the state and Texas Department of Transportation to generate an estimated $400 million in local match funding, the District is dealing with the owners of about 42 pipelines that have to be lowered or removed before actual digging can begin.

Federal funding for the $1.2 billion project is expected to be appropriated in the 2017 budget, Beard said.

Over 100 million tons of cargo are carried on the 65-mile Sabine-Neches Waterway each year, Deepening the waterway from 40 to 48 feet will help meet  growing transportation needs and continue to attract new economic development for the country.

During construction of the deepening project, an estimated 30,000 new jobs will be created, and 80,000 jobs will be available upon completion.

“Paul is a great person to work with and an excellent leader for the Navigation District,” Reese said in a press statement issued by the District. “We’ve had success over the last several years thanks to his hard work and his commitment to improving Southeast Texas.”

Beard said he was grateful to have been recognized by state legislators, and humbled to be part of the mammoth deepening project.

“Its been a very humbling experience to me to be involved in a project of this magnitude and the importance of it on a local, state and national level cannot be overemphasized,” Beard said. “We just have to bring about these improvements to be able to bring in the big ships and stay competitive with other ports not only in this country, but others around the world as well.”

In addition to his service as chairman of the Navigation District, Beard has been a leader in many Southeast Texas organizations including the Southeast Texas Waterways Advisory Council, the Port Arthur Sertoma Club, the Propeller Club, and the Port of Sabine. In 1986, he received the Maritime Person of the Year Award from the Propeller Club.

In true form to his humble spirit, Beard said any succeess he has had through the years could not have occurred without the help of many individuals, including the Navigation staff which underwent a staffing change in 2005 after then manager Tom Jackson died on Easter Sunday.

Beard had a year earlier recruited Reese, who had sold Beaumont Contractors, to come to the Navigation District. After Jackson’s death, Reese was tapped to fill the positition.

Beard graduated from Zavalla High School in 1949 and obtained a general business diploma from Port Arthur College in 1950.

He was married to his late wife Grace Beard for 54 years and has 13 children.