Dredging plan for Delaware River signed
Representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority signed an agreement Monday to deepen the Delaware River shipping channel to 45 feet from 40 feet.
The deeper channel is considered important to bring larger containerships to the port where the PRPA is planning a major new terminal, Southport, which would stretch southward from the current Packer Marine Terminal onto land that was formerly part of the Philadelphia Naval Yard. That project could boost container capacity in Philadelphia from 544,000 TEUs to 3.5 million TEUs.
Monday’s dredging agreement was signed by Assistant Secretary of the Army John Paul Woodley Jr. and John H. Estey, port authority chairman.
“I consider this to be the most important project in the history of the Port of Philadelphia,” said Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell. Deepening “will make all of the Delaware River ports more viable in the long term, allowing our ports to retain current customers and to attract new cargo.”
U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, who was at the signing ceremony, said the agreement was a “very significant step for the Port of Philadelphia and the region. I’ve worked on the matter since 1991 and it has been a brass-knuckle affair with thousands of jobs and billions of dollars at stake.”
Rendell and New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine had a long disagreement on plans to dredge the channel. When Corzine opposed dredging, Rendell prevented Pennsylvania members of the board of the Delaware River Port Authority from attending the agency’s meetings for about a year and half. Without a quorum, normal business of the DRPA could not be conducted. The DRPA is in charge of bridges across the river, a mass transit system, and is involved in cruise shipping.
But public cargo facilities are overseen by the PRPA and in Camden, N.J., by the South Jersey Port Corp.
In May 2007 the standoff between the two states was ended.
The dredging project will follow the current channel alignment 102 miles from Beckett Street Terminal to the mouth of the Delaware Bay. The existing channel widths (400 to 1,000 feet) will not change, though 12 of the existing 16 bends will be widened for safer navigation. Marcus Hook Anchorage will also be deepened to 45 feet.
“At 40 feet, the current depth of the channel is too shallow for many of the world’s larger container vessels, putting Delaware River ports at a competitive disadvantage among the U.S. East Coast ports,” Estey said. “A 45-foot shipping channel allows the region to compete on the same stage as other East Coast ports, attracting more cargo and securing the future viability of the Port of Philadelphia.”
The project will require the removal of 26 million cubic yards of dredged material, which includes 18.6 million cubic yards of sand, clay and silt from the upriver portion. The remaining 7.4 million cubic yards of sand from the Delaware Bay will be used for wetland creation and beach nourishment. Also, 77,000 cubic yards of rock will be removed.
Dennis Rochford, president of the Maritime Exchange for the Delaware River and Bay, said the $286 million project “will enhance our position as a world-class port. Be assured that international shipping lines and other global maritime interests have taken note of both our commitment and our progress to achieve this goal.” ' Chris Dupin