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Senators Applaud Federal Funding for Delaware River Deepening Project

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Three senators representing states with a vested interest in supporting the ongoing dredging project which is deepening the shipping channel of the Delaware River have all voiced their support fro President Barack Obama’s budgetary inclusion of funds to continue the project.

Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA), Tom Carper (D-DE) and Chris Coons (D-DE) announced late last week that the Obama Administration’s budget includes $35 million earmarked for the Delaware River Main Channel Deepening Project, which, when completed, will allow the Delaware River’s ports to receive bigger cargo ships, thus improving the region’s economy and ranking within the shipping sector. The $35 million funding is $15 million more than what the federal government provided last year.

[The] $35 million in funding for the Delaware Deepening Project in the president’s budget is a major victory for job creation in Philadelphia and the entire region,” Casey said. “As the budget was in formulation I spoke directly to Vice President Joe Biden on this issue and made clear the economic potential that this project has fro the region. I’m pleased that the Administration has taken this step and I will work to protect these funds as we go through the budget process.”

Pennsylvania’s five ports will certainly stand to benefit, as will the Ports of Wilmington, Del., Carper said.

“Among our most important jobs as U.S. Senators is to create a nourishing environment for businesses. With the expansion of the Panama Canal on schedule for completion by the end of 2015, the trend is toward larger commercial ships,” Carper said. “The funding proposed by the president to improve the Delaware River shipping channel will help to accommodate these vessels and increase business as the Port of Wilmington and ports throughout the region, helping to grow local commerce.

“The project is an excellent example of how investments in transportation infrastructure can be one of the surest ways government can invigorate our economic recovery by boosting commerce and creations jobs,” Carper continued. “Additionally, this increase in funding is on a path to complete the project on schedule, so that Delaware River ports will remain an efficient and competitive part of America’s trade network.”
According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the project “involves dredging as needed within the existing 40-foot Delaware River federal navigation channel to deepen it to 45 feet from Philadelphia Harbor, Pa. and Beckett Street Terminal, Camden, N.J. along a 102.5-mile distance to deepwater in the Delaware Bay.”

Three contracts have been completed with a fourth awarded, and the project is targeted for a 2017 completion.

“The deeper channel will provide for more efficient transportation of containerized, dry bulk (steel and slag) and liquid bulk (crude oil and petroleum products) cargo to and from the Delaware River ports, with estimated net annualized benefits of more than $13 million to the U.S. economy,” read a summary from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Philadelphia District Marine Design Center. “Under a Project Partnership Agreement signed in 2008, the total cost of initial construction, approximately $300 million, is shared 35 percent by the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority as the non-federal sponsor, and 65 percent by the federal government through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”

The engineer corps also conducted several environmental impact studies - Final Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the Delaware River Main Channel Deepening Project – releasing them last year.

While it was imperative to address the environmental ramifications of the project, increasing business and creating jobs remain at the core.

“The Delaware River Deepening Project is critical to keeping our ports and region competitive in the global marketplace. With the coming expansion of the Panama Canal, our ports must be prepared to accommodate larger cargo ships or risk losing business to our competitors,” Coons said. “Deepening will bring new trade, investment, and thousands of new jobs to the Port of Wilmington and the Delaware Valley…I am thankful for the strong support the president’s budget proposal has shown for this project and will continue fighting to ensure its completion.”

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