USA: Future Looks Bright for Delaware Dredging Project
Charles G. Kopp, Esq., Chairman of the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority, reports that two major financial developments related to the Delaware River Main Channel-Deepening Project will assure continued work on this critical regional economic development project in the months to come. After years of planning and preparation, the project to deepen the Delaware River’s main channel from 40 to 45 feet got underway in early 2010.
First, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced during the first week of February that its FY 2012 Work Plan will include $16.9 million that will be exclusively reserved for the deepening project. These dollars, accessible immediately, will allow the Army Corps to deepen two additional sections, or “reaches”, of the project, totaling about 15 miles. Labeled Reaches A and AA, these areas are located in the portion of the Delaware River’s main channel that extends from Philadelphia’s Center City/South Philadelphia area south to Essington, Pennsylvania, a very busy section of the river. With the availability of these new funds, the deepening of these reaches is scheduled to begin in early August.
Secondly, shortly following the above announcement, the Obama administration revealed on Monday, February 13 that it will include $31 million in the President’s Budget for the deepening project. These funds, designated for the fiscal year starting October 1, are scheduled to be used to remove rock along the river bottom in the area of Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania.
These combined funds will go a long way to complete the project to deepen the 102-mile Delaware River shipping channel from 40 feet, its depth since World War II, to 45 feet. Already two reaches of the river channel, in the state of Delaware, have been completed using funds released by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania through its independent state agency the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority (PRPA). PRPA is the local matching organization for the project, with the federal government providing the rest of the funds. These two recent announcements mark the first major release of funds from the federal government for the project.
“These two announcements are wonderful news for the Port of Philadelphia and the thousands of men and women who make their living on our working waterfront,” said Chairman Kopp. “If cargo ships can’t get here because our water isn’t deep enough, this port- traditionally one of the busiest in the nation- simply won’t be able to survive, let alone thrive. It’s gratifying that the administration in Washington recognizes that fact, and showed its commitment to this region with the release of these funds.”
PRPA Executive Director James T. McDermott, Jr. acknowledged the invaluable assistance of many public officials to bring about the two funding announcements. “We have countless people to thank for their diligent efforts to bring about this great news. I must take a moment to acknowledge in particular Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett; Senator Robert Casey; Senator Pat Toomey; Congressman Robert Brady; Pennsylvania State Representative Bill Keller; State Senators Larry Farnese and Mike Stack; and our terrific Chairman, Charles Kopp, who in less than a year on the job has helped bring about such major progress on this project. I also acknowledge the many public officials from out of state, especially in Delaware, who came forward to help with this project, as well as a large coalition of business and labor leaders in the tri-state area.”
Countless economic studies over the past two decades have proven that the ports of the Delaware River, which encompass dozens of public and private facilities in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, must respond to the carrier industry’s production of larger, deeper-draft ships if our region’s ports are to remain viable. Countless other studies have also demonstrated that the Delaware River Main Channel-Deepening Project is the safest, cleanest, and most economically stable way to allow the Delaware River’s regional ports to welcome and service these new modern vessels, vessels that will go elsewhere if they can’t come to our region.
At present, the ports of the Delaware River, which include the many public facilities of the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority, contribute $6 billion to the regional economy, over 75,000 direct and indirect jobs, and over $150 million in state and local taxes.
The Philadelphia Regional Port Authority (PRPA) is an independent agency of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania charged with the management, maintenance, marketing, and promotion of publicly owned port facilities along the Delaware River in Philadelphia, as well as strategic planning throughout the port district. PRPA works with its terminal operators to modernize, expand, and improve its facilities, and to market those facilities to prospective port users. Port cargoes and the activities they generate are responsible for thousands of direct and indirect jobs in the Philadelphia area and throughout Pennsylvania.
Dredging Today Staff, February 20, 2012; Image: usace