Governor Edward G. Rendell hailed the signing of a historic agreement that will officially begin a five-year, $379 million project to deepen the ’s shipping channel, calling it a major milestone in ongoing efforts to expand commerce and enhance economic development in the region.
The partnership agreement between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority (PRPA) represents a significant step forward in a 15-year effort to deepen the river’s shipping channel. The agreement was signed by Assistant Secretary of the Army John Paul Woodley Jr. and PRPA Chairman John H. Estey.
“I consider this to be the most important project in the history of the ,” said Governor Rendell. “Today is a major milestone for a project that will shape the future of maritime commerce on the .
“With this agreement, we can say to every hard working man and woman in this region that the jobs on these piers are secure, and that more jobs are on the way. This project will make all of the ports more viable in the long term, allowing our ports to retain current customers and to attract new cargo.”
The agreement allows the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in partnership with the PRPA, to increase by five feet the current 40-foot depth of the river’s shipping channel from ’s Beckett Street Terminal to the mouth of the – a distance of 102 miles. The new, 45-foot channel depth will allow ports to compete more effectively for cargo, to provide safe passage for vessels, and to increase jobs and cargo to the region.
“I am proud to represent the Army as we sign the Project Partnership Agreement. It has been a long time coming,” said John Paul Woodley, Jr., Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works). “Some 25 years have passed since Congress first authorized a study of the channel, and 16 years since Congress authorized construction. We look forward to moving this project to the next phase.”
Governor Rendell was joined at the event by Senator Arlen Specter and U.S. Rep. Robert A. Brady.
“This agreement marks a very significant step for the and the region,” Senator Specter said. “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. Deepening the is indispensable to remaining competitive with other deep-water ports, and this is a great day for our region.”
“This project will have a profound long-term effect on the and on the entire region,” said Congressman Robert A. Brady. “The has always been a place where hard work and dedication can help Philadelphians secure a decent job with good wages. This agreement cements the future viability of the Port, and ensures those quality port related jobs will be here for future generations.”
“This agreement today is great news for 's economy,” said U.S. Senator Bob Casey, who was unable to attend the event. “The deepening project will allow more cargo to be transported in and out of the . I look forward to working with Governor Rendell, Senator Specter, and the men and women of organized labor to continue strengthening the .”
The project will follow the current channel alignment 102 miles from Beckett Street Terminal to the mouth of the . The existing channel widths (400 – 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,” said PRPA Chairman John H. Estey, Esq. “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.”
“This partnership agreement signing is the culmination of decades of hard work, patience and dedication to a project of major significance for both the Delaware Valley and the United States of America,” said Lieutenant Colonel Gwen E. Baker, Philadelphia District Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “The Corps of Engineers stands ready to deliver an economically, environmentally and technically sound project to the region and the nation.”
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 will be used for wetland creation and beach nourishment. Also, 77,000 cubic yards of rock will be removed.
The Corps will construct, operate and maintain the project in an environmentally sustainable manner. Extensive testing has been done to confirm that the dredged material is safe, and the Corps will continue to monitor water quality throughout the project.
The deepening project will bring substantial secondary benefits to the ecosystem. Dredged sand on ’s and ’s Egg Island Point will help to promote horseshoe crab habitat through wetland restoration, and protect back-bay wetlands behind ’s via a beach renourishment project. The Corps has pursued beneficial use of dredged material projects like this across the nation and will continue to look for more opportunities.