$30 million tagged for Delaware dredging in Obama budget plan

President Obama’s proposed budget includes $30 million to deepen the Delaware River’s shipping channel, a construction project that has been snarled in controversy and legal battles.

If it survives as part of the final budget, the $30 million allocation would pay for the Army Corps of Engineers to deepen the river from Philadelphia down to Chester, including blasting rock around Marcus Hook. Ed Voigt, spokesman for the Philadelphia area Army Corps, says the installment is about 11 percent of the entire $265 million project. 

“We never get excited,” per se, he says about the money, but “it’s a significant amount of funding.”

However, the funds are not yet secure.

Just last week, $16 million was released to the Army Corps of Engineers for this year’s dredging work, even though the fiscal year began in October.  Meanwhile, there’s a challenge ahead. The state of New Jersey and five environmental groups have sued to stop the project, objecting to its environmental impacts and the sludge from the bottom of the river that would be dumped in New Jersey. However, as the case works its way through the courts, the construction continues.”Because no judge told the Army Corps that they were not allowed to move their project forward, the Army Corps could continue at its own discretion to move the project forward as long as it had funding,” acknowledges Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper.Van Rossum doesn’t like the earmarks that have funded the deepening project in the past, but now the process has become less transparent. “We have the Pennsylvania politicians successfully strong-arming the president and the administration to essentially force them into providing funding for this project,” she says.Van Rossum’s court case is in front of the 3rd U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.  If she loses, she vows to take it to the Supreme Court. If her opponents lose, she expects they’ll do the same.

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