Breaking News Update: Dredging deal inked

June 23

Flash from The Inquirer website this morning:


Pa. inks agreement on Delaware dredging
By Henry J. Holcomb

Pennsylvania and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers signed a formal agreement this morning to deepen the Delaware River to allow passage of larger ships and major expansion of the region’s maritime economy.

Gov. Rendell called the agreement to deepen the river’s shipping channel from 40 to 45 feet “the most important project in the history of the Port of Philadelphia.”

Sen. Arlen Spector (R., Pa.), who began work on deepening the river in 1991, called it the end of a “brass-knuckle affair with thousands of jobs and billions of dollars at stake.”

He was referring to the Pennsylvania’s long battle with environmentalists and New Jersey, whose political leaders challenged the economic value of the $379 million project. They were able to block the bi-state Delaware River Port Authority from being the local sponsor.

With the agreement signed, dredges could begin work on the five-year project in 10 months. In the meantime, work can commence on selecting private investors to finance building expanded port facilities, creating construction jobs in the short term.

The signers were John Paul Woodley Jr., assistant secretary of the Army, and John H. Estey, the Philadelphia lawyer who is chairman of the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority, a state agency. Estey is a former chief of staff to Rendell.

Rendell said, in a statement prepared for a 10 a.m. news conference at the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal in South Philadelphia, that the agreement allows state and local officials to tell people in the region’s maritime industry that their jobs are secure “and that more jobs are on the way.”

Deepening the channel, Rendell added, will allow terminals in both sides of the river and in Delaware “to retain current customers and to attract new cargo.”

The project will deepen 102 miles of the river’s ship channel from Camden’s Beckett Street Terminal, across from Philadelphia’s Penn’s Landing, to the Atlantic Ocean.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and U.S. Rep. Robert A. Brady, both Pennsylvania Democrats, joined Rendell at the news conference and touted the number of long-term jobs that bringing larger ships and more cargo will generate.

Contact staff writer Henry J. Holcomb at 215-854-2614 or

June 19

Odds and ends on the planning, development and design fronts as City Council holds a final day of hearings on resolutions, ordinances and bills prior to the summer recess.

City Council unanimously adopted Ordinance 080080-A, which amends Title 14 of the Philadelphia Code to add a new section (14-908) that addresses the creation of a Queen Village Conservation District, which has been in the talking stages for years.

The ordinance, introduced by First District Councilman Frank DiCicco, will for the first time allow homeowners in that part of town to interact with the city’s planning commission regarding the scale, scope and design of new construction and renovation work. 

The Conservation District status is not as strict as the requirements of a historic district.

ZCC gets more time

Council also unanimously adopted a resolution that will give the Zoning Code Commission, which is charged with overhauling the ancient Philadelphia Zoning Code, until June of 2010 to file a final report on the effort to Council.

That is welcome news since the ZCC just recently hired consultants for Phase I of the effort and the Planning Commission is in the early stages of developing a comprehensive plan.


Fairmount Park Commission transfer of power?

By a 16-1 vote Council adopted a reolution that would amend the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter by transferring the power vested in the Fairmount Park Commission to the Department of Recreation and reconstituting the Fairmount Park Commission as the Commission on Parks and Recreation.

Following that vote Council voted 16-1 to adopt an ordinance calling for the resolution to be voted on as a referendum by the electorate of the City of Philadelphia this November.

Bills held until September

Legislation regarding historic designation for interior public spaces of historically significant buildings and the rezoning of 700 N. Delaware Avenue from C4 to G2 were held and will be heard in council when it reconvenes.

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