USA: Senator Urges Corps to Dredge Six Upstate Harbors

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to fully dredge six Upstate New York harbors that are eligible for Sandy supplemental appropriations funding to dredge back to pre-storm conditions, but not enough to bring them to fully functional channel depths.

Specifically, Barcelona Harbor in Chautauqua County, Irondequoit Harbor and Rochester Harbor in Monroe County, Oak Orchard Harbor in Orleans County, Little Sodus Harbor in Cayuga County, and Wilson Harbor in Niagara County were damaged during Sandy and are eligible for some storm-related dredging.

If the additional dredging required to reach functional channel depth is put off for a year, the cost to complete that extra dredging will rise by nearly $2 million, based on initial preliminary estimates by the USACE.

Schumer just helped secure an additional $200 million over last year’s funding for the Army Corps in Fiscal Year 2014 and noted that the funding is available to get these dredging projects completed this year.

Schumer therefore urged USACE to complete the remaining maintenance and dredging necessary for those harbors in one contract.

Currently, USACE plans to accept bids for only the Sandy-related work in the coming weeks. Schumer noted that the process of bringing dredging equipment to a harbor, known as the mobilization cost, is the bulk of dredging costs.

To complete Sandy-related storm repairs separate from the remaining need makes little fiscal sense for the Army Corps, will increase costs, and would delay long-awaited work that would boost business and recreational activities at Upstate New York harbors.

With the necessary dredging equipment soon to be on site at six of our Upstate New York harbors and the federal funding in the bank, the U.S. Army Corps should just finish the job and get these critical water bodies to their fully-functioning depth and condition. It’s great news that the Army Corps plans to soon accept bids for contracts to get these Upstate harbors, damaged during Sandy, dredged to their pre-storm condition. But it makes zero sense to complete that storm-related work and then stop without completing all the required dredging to finally allow these harbors to be used to their utmost potential, both for business and recreation. With the recent boost in appropriations that I fought to obtain for the Corps, I urge them to eliminate duplicative spending and expedite the full dredging of these harbors – let’s get the job done,” said Schumer.

Schumer cited estimates provided by the USACE that reveal it is more cost effective, by an estimated $1.89 million, to complete the additional dredging this year than to delay.

The USACE estimates it will require only $2.2 million in additional funding this year to bring these harbors to fully functional channel depths, but that cost would nearly double to $4.15 million if this work was put off for just one year.

Needlessly increasing costs to federal taxpayers by nearly $2 million is unwise, Schumer said.

Through the Sandy Supplemental Appropriations Bill – which Schumer led the charge to pass through Congress – there is approximately $685,000 set aside to dredge the recreational harbors: Barcelona, Irondequoit, Oak Orchard, Little Sodus and Wilson, and $1.2 million for the commercial harbors: Oswego and Rochester.

Through that law, the USACE is permitted to use funding to dredge specific harbors to their pre-storm conditions and depths only.

However, dredging in the vast majority of these Upstate New York harbors is seriously overdue, and silt removal to pre-Sandy levels will still leave a significant amount of dredging work unfinished in order to remove a backlog of accumulated sediment to get the harbors to fully functional channel depths.

For those Superstorm Sandy repairs, the USACE plans to accept bids for the recreational harbors on March 12th and accept bids for the commercial harbors beginning next week. The total bid for all the work is expected to come in around $1.8 million based on initial preliminary estimates by the USACE. However, the USACE does not intend to use their general fund – which now has sufficient funding – to complete the job while costly equipment is already on site.

Press Release, February 20, 2014

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