Concerned about federal dollars making their way to the Delaware River deepening project through a recently enacted $74 million ânavigation slush fundâ, 59 local, state, regional and national conservation and civic organizations wrote to President Obama urging him to ensure that the environmentally destructive and economically wasteful Delaware River Deepening Project does not receive federal funding.
âFederal and state resource protection agencies, the Government Accountability Office, the State of New Jersey, and economic and natural resources experts are all on record questioning and challenging this project; there is also ongoing federal litigation challenging the Corps overriding the right of Delaware to protect its own waters and concerns among stakeholders about the precedent this may set; and this project fails to meet federal project funding guidelines. We are urging the President to ensure that federal dollars do not support this projectâ said George Sorvalis, Coordinator for the Water Protection Network.
âThe legal and environmental precedents being set here on the Delaware River are already reverberating across the country; the Army Corps is now attempting to smother States rights and sovereignty on the Savannah River using the same model it has been implementing here on the Delaware River,â stated Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper.
âThere is expert data and reports demonstrating the environmental harms and the economic losses deepening the Delaware River poses for our region and the nation, it would not be appropriate for the President to stifle the public discourse or circumvent the legal process by providing direct Presidential funding as Senators from Pennsylvania are seeking,â van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper, adds.
Senators Toomey, Casey and Coons have been pressuring, via letters and public press statements, the President to provide funding for the Deepening in his presidential budget; as well as urging the creation of the ânavigation slush fundâ the Army Corps might use for this purpose. Neither President Obama nor his predecessor have included the Delaware River deepening in their presidential budgets. Funds have only been specifically received for the project via the earmark process.
The Delaware River deepening project would deepen the Riverâs main navigation channel from 40 to 45 feet. The Government Accountability Office has issued two reports and testified before Congress on this project; each time questioning and/or challenging Army Corps claims of benefits. In 2009 the State of Delaware denied needed state permitting for the project. Currently the State of New Jersey, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, the National Wildlife Federation, Clean Water Action, the NJ Environmental Federation, and the Delaware Nature Society are in federal court challenging the use of a 14 year old Environmental Impact Statement to support the project, as well as the Army Corpsâ failure to comply with legal obligations under the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Coastal Zone Management Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and Delaware State law.
Dredging Today Staff, January 27, 2012; Image: usace