The Army Corps of Engineers will start deepening the Delaware River despite being denied a permit by Delaware environmental officials.
The Army Corps of Engineers has decided to move forward with the Delaware River deepening project even though it’s Delaware permit was rejected in July. Despite that rejection, the Army Corps’ Ed Voigt says the project to deepen the channel from 40 to 45 feet will begin, probably in December.
Even while that work gets underway, Voigt says the Corps will reapply for a permit from Delaware. “We still want to make sure that all the environmental issues have been addressed. We’re confident that we have addressed those or can address those. This is not a project that’s by any means undoable. It’s a economically beneficial project, and it’s also environmentally sound.” That economic benefit would come through the ability of ships to carry larger cargo loads up the river mainly to oil refineries in the Philadelphia area. Other ports, including the Port of Wilmington, would also benefit from being able to accept larger vessels.
In response, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Colin O’Mara issued a statement saying “DNREC denied the Corps’ first permit application, in part, because the proposed project had changed significantly since originally submitted for consideration.” O’Mara says it’s “troubling that the Corps now seeks to proceed with a current environmental assessment and without any public consideration of the project as currently proposed.” DNREC originally denied the permit in July because of the changes made to the plan since it was originally proposed. In a July letter to the Corps, O’Mara wrote “The scale of the project has changed substantially from the project envisioned in the 2001 application, and there has been a great deal of new information developed in the intervening period about the Delaware River and Bay.”
The Corps claims that the changes to the project cited by DNREC have reduced the impact deepening the river will have on the environment. Voigt says, “The estimated work required to do the work- really, the amount of dredging required- is drastically less than we initially anticipated, mainly because of greatly improved survey technology.” He says the amount of dirt that will be removed from the river bottom is now estimated to be about 16-million cubic yards, compared to 33-million cubic yards that would have been removed under the previous plan.
Moving forward, the Corps expects to begin the deepening project in December. They expect the process of reapplying for Delaware permits to take about nine months.