Push for dredging of Delaware River increases in light of economic benefits

January 18, 2012

Supporters of deepening the Delaware River navigation channel an additional five feet are now making a push to secure federal funding that will soon be designated for navigation-improvement projects this year, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

According to the news source, Congress approved a fiscal spending plan for 2012 that included $74 million to go for navigation construction aimed at improving traffic efficiency on rivers in the U.S.

The Inquirer reported that deepening the Delaware's channel from 40 to 45 feet would qualify as such a project, and Pennsylvania Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey joined Delaware Senator Chris Coons in working to get funding for the potential dredging project.

"This doesn't usually happen, that Congress has included language in their bill to make sure the Corps sets aside a certain amount for navigation-improvement projects," Edward Voigt, the Corps' public-affairs and congressional liaison in Philadelphia, told the news source.

The combined effort from Delaware and Pennsylvania has already deepened 17 miles of the 102-mile channel from Philadelphia to the Atlantic Ocean, but the federal funding would push it forward at a much quicker pace.

"It's very important not only for Delaware, but for the region," Eugene Bailey, executive director of the Port of Wilmington, told the Inquirer. "You need deeper water to bring in larger ships, which should generate additional business and provide additional jobs."

Casey noted that the joint effort by the states would increase the competitiveness of the region's exporters and manufacturers, helping to create jobs and industry in Delaware and Pennsylvania. The senator's state has already spent $40 million on the dredging work, and the project is supposed to receive a total of two-thirds of its funding from the federal government, according to the news source.

The Associated Press reported that officials in New Jersey have tried to stop the dredging project, and a U.S. appeals court will hear arguments from both sides in order to determine whether funding from the federal government will continue support deepening the river.

Casey noted that the project is a necessity for the development of the regional economy, as the number of jobs and the scope of manufacturing and industry in the area will be directly affected.

"In the region, you have approximately 250,000 people out of work. So this is a big job issue – both direct and indirect jobs, short-term and long-term," Casey said in a statement.