After three decades of studies and legal fights, a federal court has cleared the way for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to complete deepening the Delaware River.
The Corps will dredge a 103-mile stretch of the Delaware, taking it from 40 to 45 feet deep. Legal battles with environmental groups in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey have slowed progress. In this latest decision, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld many other previous district rulings — stating that the Corps of Engineers has done a satisfactory job of adhering to federal environmental laws. Richard Pearsell, spokesman for the Philadelphia district of the Corps, says a deeper river means larger ships with more cargo coming to port. “We’re of course pleased with the court’s decision,” said Pearsell. “We’ve studied and planned for this project for 30 years, and we feel confident it’s going to be good for the economy and safe for the environment. We applaud the court’s decision.” Some dredging has already been done. Pearsell says work will begin in August along the 9-mile stretch from the Walt Whitman Bridge south to the airport. But not if Maya van Rossum has anything to do with it. She’s the Delaware Riverkeeper — one of the plaintiffs in the case. “This is just another step along the long journey to protect our river and our communities from the deepening project,” van Rossum said. “The Delaware Riverkeeper Network is committed to taking the next step in the legal processes to prevent the deepening project from happening.” That next step for opponents is unclear.