N.C. pushes dredging study for Wilmington port
The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources will help fund a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' feasibility study of whether the Port of Wilmington can be deepened and widened to handle larger vessels and more traffic, the agency announced last week.
State officials have made expanded international trade a top economic priority, but the state is constrained by the relative small size of Wilmington's port, the extra river transit from the ocean, the small local market and competition from much larger ports on the Eastern seaboard.
The North Carolina State Ports Authority wants to enlarge the turning basin and widen the navigation channel to accommodate larger vessels from Asia that are expected to increase in frequency when the expansion of the Panama Canal is completed in late 2014. Thomas Eager, the port authority's CEO, last week visited Panama where he signed an agreement with the Panama Canal Authority to work together to jointly market the all-water route to the East Coast.
The study would assess the cost and environmental impact of conducting the necessary dredging.
The desire to increase the navigable capacity of the Cape Fear River follows the port authority's decision last summer to abandon plans for a large, greenfield container terminal several miles downriver from Wilmington. The plan was shelved in the face of local opposition to the massive amount of marine and land-side development, as well as concerns about the cost and whether the market would support a new port. ' Eric Kulisch