Port of Baltimore Dredging Projects Included in the Bill

U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski, Vice Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has announced that the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 includes $59 million to invest in the Port of Baltimore.

According to Mikulski, the Port of Baltimore is an economic engine for Maryland, supporting thousands of jobs and keeping our economy rolling.

“This public investment in the Port of Baltimore is about jobs, jobs, jobs,” Senator Mikulski said. “From the dock workers who unload the ships to the manufacturers who rely on cargo transported by the ships, the port means jobs. Through construction jobs and ‘The Corps’ dredging to prepare the port for the bigger ships that will soon be sailing through the widened Panama Canal, we are supporting jobs today and jobs tomorrow.”

Projects for the Port of Baltimore receiving federal funding include:

  • $18.925 million for annual maintenance dredging of the Port of Baltimore’s 50-foot shipping channels making it one of the few East Coast ports deep enough to accommodate the super container ships coming through the Suez Canal and from the Panama Canal next year. The channel goes up the Chesapeake Bay from the Virginia Capes to Fort McHenry, a distance of 175 miles.
  • $13.429 million for the C&D Canal for annual maintenance dredging of its shipping channels, which serve as a shortcut for vessels traveling between Baltimore and points north. Approximately 40 percent of the Port of Baltimore’s shipping traffic goes through the C&D Canal that connects the Chesapeake Bay with the Delaware River.
  • $26.5 million for the continuation of the Poplar Island environmental restoration project, which is taking clean dredged materials from the shipping lanes leading to the Port of Baltimore and using it to stabilize the shoreline, create habitat area and restore the wetlands of one of the Chesapeake Bay’s most valuable island ecosystems off Talbot County. The Maryland Congressional Delegation reauthorized the expansion of Poplar Island in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (Public Law 113-121). This includes the first installment of federal funding for construction of the Poplar Island expansion project, totaling $12.8 million. Additionally, this funding includes $13.7 million for the construction of existing projects.

Poplar Island is the port’s only operational dredge placement site. Without the expansion, either the port will be forced to overload the existing site, which will compromise the environmental benefits of this project, or the Corps would reduce its annual dredging of the port’s channels. The latter would put the operations of the port in jeopardy by requiring reduced ship drafts causing a rippling effect across the Maryland’s economy.

  • $325,000 for Baltimore Harbor drift removal to remove trash and debris from the Port of Baltimore’s shipping channels.

Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund

The bill provides a record amount of funding for Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund activities nationwide – totaling $1.25 billion. This is the level of funding authorized in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (Public Law 113-121).

Across the country, a backlog of dredging projects forces vessels to carry less than their capacity, threatens to close harbors and increases the risk of vessel grounding. While dredging is the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund’s primary activity, other functions include construction and maintenance of dredge material disposal areas, jetty repair and operation activities.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that Maryland’s dredging needs total $302 million for projects on the Wicomico River, navigation projects that serve Eastern Shore watermen and projects in the Baltimore Harbor and channels.