The Port of Erie is located on the southeast shore of Lake Erie in a natural bay formed and sheltered by Presque Isle peninsula. Its harbor entrance channel is narrow and 29 feet deep. Dredging is a constant concern. In fact, dredging of harbors around the Great Lakes has been a hot button issue for the maritime industry.
Funding is provided by the Harbor Maintenance Tax which is a user fee collected by the federal government to ensure the adequate maintenance and operations of waterway infrastructure by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
On Tuesday, March 4, the Corps released their FY14 budget. It included an additional $25 million for Great Lakes harbors - $13.8 million of which will be dedicated to dredging. The Port of Erie is slotted to receive an additional $1.52 million toward maintenance dredging of their waterway.
Raymond Schreckengost, executive director of the Port applauded the news, “The simple fact is that without this allocation, we would be severely impacted in our operations. These additional dollars are a direct result of our industry lobbying efforts and we look forward to working with the Corps on ensuring that our channel and turning basin, which is about 10-15 acres, are ready for the 2014 shipping season.”
Donjon Shipbuilding and Repair, a member of the Erie Marine community and whose business depends upon adequate water depth for deep water vessels to access the Lake Erie facility, offered the following comments by its President and CEO, J. Arnold Witte, “Since our creation in December of 2009, we have been making positive strides every year, with the help of our friends and business partners throughout the Erie area - most importantly the Erie-Western Pennsylvania Port Authority - to increase our business.”
White continued, “With the recent signing of a new build contract for a 185,000 Barrel Chemical Barge, the future remains bright. This proposed dredging project will allow us to continue to be in a position to offer both new build and repair services to the U.S. and Great Lakes marine communities and will help Donjon Shipbuilding remain a positive contributor to the continued economic success of the region.”
Proper dredging of the Erie Harbor is also critical to the ongoing operations of Carmeuse Lime & Stone Erie Sand & Gravel. Area Operations Manager, Scott Rehder, said, “Erie Sand & Gravel depends on the harbor for the safe and navigable access for our inbound stone shipments via self-unloading vessels, project cargoes and other port activities by salt-water vessels, dredging operations on the J.S. St. John, and for those vessels that come here each winter for repairs at our docks. We have also secured a multi-year contract with the Corps of Engineers to provide beach sand to Presque Isle State Park that must be delivered by lake vessel through the Erie Harbor.”
The Port said it is looking forward to the 2014 shipping season and beyond. The Pennsylvania legislature has approved a five-year highway funding package that includes funding for the Port. Bringing in aggregates for highway construction is a primary function for the Port through its tenant, Erie Sand & Gravel. In 2013, the port handled between 500-750,000 tons and looks to meet or beat that tonnage in 2014.