Budget money for Delaware River dredging is confirmed

Posted: February 13, 2012

It's official. President Obama's proposed $3.8 trillion budget for fiscal 2013 includes $31 million for the Delaware River main channel deepening from 40 feet to 45 feet.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Monday posted details on its website of the Corps' $4.73 billion civil works spending plan for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

"This project has been a true regional and bipartisan effort," said Dennis Rochford, president of the Maritime Exchange for the Delaware River and Bay.

The announcement followed last Tuesday's news that $16.9 million was in the Army Corps 2012 work plan, and would be used to deepen the shipping channel five more feet between Penn's Landing and Essington, starting in early August.

Supporters say a deeper channel would help ports here remain competitive in vying for cargoes and bigger ships expected to come from Asia when the Panama Canal is expanded in 2014.

"Investments like this are critical to the long-term development of the Port of Wilmington and Delaware, as well as the other states along the Delaware River, to help us continue our economic recovery and to stay competitive," said U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D., Del.). "As we move forward with this important economic investment, we need to be good stewards of our environment and protect that resource as well."

But several environmental groups are opposed. Delaware Riverkeeper Maya van Rossum said recently that "facts, law and good policy have been thrown out the window" in favor of political whims. "The project is an embarrassment and waste of money, and we will continue to work to stop it."

Brady Russell, eastern Pennsylvania director of Clean Water Action said the deepening "will choke the Delaware Estuary" and taxpayer funds should not be wasted.

Proponents, including Rochford, said a deeper channel is key to several initiatives, including a new Southport Marine Terminal, a new port in Paulsboro, and expansion at the Port of Wilmington.

The Delaware River ports and piers contribute $6 billion to the regional economy, 75,000 jobs, $1.5 billion in wages and salaries, and $150 million in state and local taxes, the maritime exchange said.

U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan, (R., Pa.) said Monday the project "has the potential to help create 1,300 jobs and increase cargo by 2.4 million tons to the Port of Philadelphia. As the only port on the East Coast restricted to a 40 foot shipping channel, our region is at an unfair disadvantage. Deepening the channel will allow our region to stay competitive and create and retain much-needed jobs."

Contact staff writer Linda Loyd at 215-854-2831 or lloyd@phillynews.com.

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