Obama budget proposal includes funds to finish Delaware River dredging project

A project to deepen the Delaware River’s navigable channel is now full steam ahead, according to Senator Bob Casey.

Sen. Casey’s office announced today that the large, multiyear project is set to receive the $55 million needed to finish deepening 102 miles of the Delaware River’s navigation channel from 40 feet to 45 feet: $21.875 million is included in the Army Corps of Engineers Work Plan for fiscal year 2016, and another $33.135 million is included in President Barack Obama’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2017, says Casey spokesperson Jacklin Rhoads.

The remaining two segments to be dredged in the ten-stage, seven-year $360 million project are an 11 mile stretch between Chester in Delaware County and Wilmington, DE, and around 24 miles in the Delaware Bay. The project has been touted as a way to improve the Port of Philadelphia’s competitiveness: A deeper channel will allow larger vessels to travel up river.

The president’s budget proposal allocates $1.09 billion to the Army Corps of Engineers for construction projects covering commercial navigation, flood damage reduction, and aquatic ecosystem remediation. Casey’s office says $33 million of that is earmarked for the Delaware dredging project.

President Obama just announced his proposal earlier this week. Congressional Republicans have already said they’ll ignore the President’s proposal, setting the stage for yet another drawn out budget fight in Washington.

The appropriations bill is formally due before the current fiscal year ends on September 30th.* Last year, it took Congress until mid December to pass the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016; in the interim, it passed continuing resolutions to temporarily fund the federal government.

Still, “we don’t expect any hiccups” in getting Congressional approval for the $33 million, said Rhoads in an e-mail. Casey co-signed a letter in support of the Delaware River deepening project to the Office of Management and Budget with Delaware Senators Tom Carper and Christopher Coons. Casey also urged the Army Corps of Engineers to fund the channel project, which was originally authorized by the Water Resources Development Act of 1992.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, through the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority (PRPA), has contributed around $100 million to the project, with the rest coming out of federal coffers.

“Today is an exciting day for us,” said PRPA Governmental Affairs Director Don Brennan.

In an emailed statement, Mayor Jim Kenney also called the news “exciting,” adding: “This funding will help us continue our work to expand the port’s container capacity and, along with it, family-sustaining jobs.”

Kenney was an outspoken supporter of expanding the city’s port facilities during his Mayoral campaign last year. The PRPA is currently evaluating proposals to develop the Southport Marine Terminal, a 196-acre property now lying fallow between the Navy Yard and the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal. The PRPA eliminated a proposed office complex at the site from the request for qualifications process in January.

*CORRECTION: This sentence originally stated that the federal government fiscal year end was June 30th. Jim got the federal government and Pennsylvania government’s fiscal year ends backwards. He regrets the error, and the fact that fiscal years don’t necessarily match calendar years.

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