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American ShipperShipping

Virginia lawmakers carve out $350m for Norfolk dredging

The Virginia House of Delegates Committee on Appropriations and Senate Finance Committee recently released their respective two-year state budget proposals, both of which contain funding for the widening and deepening of the Port of Norfolk Harbor Channel.

   Lawmakers from the Virginia House of Representatives have proposed to set aside $350 million in cash and bonds in the state budget for dredging projects at the Port of Norfolk.
   The Virginia House of Delegates Committee on Appropriations and Senate Finance Committee recently released their respective two-year state budget proposals, both of which contain provisions that would carve out funding for the planning and preliminary engineering to widen and dredge the Norfolk Harbor Channel to 55 feet, as well as dredge the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River to 45 feet.
   Of the $350 million included in the House budget proposal, $20 million will come from Commonwealth Transportation Funds to immediately begin the preliminary engineering and design, and the other $330 million will come from bonds to “fully fund the state’s share of this critically needed project,” according to Chris Jones, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
   The Senate proposal includes the same $20 million for preliminary planning and engineering, but does not include the $330 million in bond authorization in the House’s version.
   From here, the Virginia House and Senate will appoint budget conferees to a conference committee to reconcile these and any other remaining differences between the two budget proposals.
   The dredging project is part of a port-wide effort to nearly double its annual container handling capacity by 2020 and accommodate the ever-larger containerships calling at U.S. East Coast ports.
   “The Port of Virginia remains one of the key economic drivers of our economy. But in this competitive international environment, more must be done to ensure Virginia’s port remains positioned to be the top east coast port throughout the 21st century,” said Jones. “I am pleased to report we are including $350 million in funding to allow the Virginia Port Authority to build on its momentum and proceed at once with the much needed deepening and widening of the channels.”
   “Two years ago, the General Assembly made a historic $350 million investment that will result in a 46 percent increase in the Port of Virginia’s container handling capacity by 2020,” Art Moye, executive vice president of the Virginia Maritime Association, told American Shipper. “Our elected leaders regularly visit the port and have seen firsthand the increasing sizes of the ships and understand the need to offer the deepest harbor and channels and the importance unrestricted navigation. The Virginia Maritime Association applauds this additional commitment by the General Assembly to improving Virginia’s competitive position among other leading ports across the globe.”

   Correction: A previous version of this story said both the House and Senate budget proposals included $350 million in cash and bond appropriations, not just the House version.

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