A spokesman for the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority said its studies have shown for some time the benefits of dredging the Delaware River.
But it’s always nice when someone else comes out in support of your position.
The Port Authority got that Oct. 23 when two major business groups in Delaware, the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce and the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce, wrote letters in support of the project to Delaware Gov. Jack Markell.
This show of support comes weeks after Delaware officials denied a permit application to the Army Corps of Engineers to begin the project.
“We’ve gotten behind our own studies,” said Joseph Menta, director of communications for the port authority. “But it’s always good when independent groups come out in favor. These latest two are particularly helpful because they’re from Delaware, and they’ve been hedging a bit.”
Menta said it was unclear whether the Army Corps of Engineers even needed approval from Delaware to initiate the project, which would deepen a roughly 90-mile stretch of the Delaware River’s main channel from a depth of 40 feet to 45.
Menta said the project was necessary because of the constantly increasing size of ships bringing in imported goods such as fresh produce.
“Ships are getting bigger every day,” Menta said. “If we don’t deepen our water, we’re not going to get those vessels. That’s especially important here because of the volume of Chilean fruit we bring in here.”
The dredging becomes even more vital given that the port authority is getting ready to open a regional produce market, a refrigerated facility that will serve hundreds of regional produce vendors, in south Philadelphia.
Besides, Menta said, the Delaware River main channel hasn’t undergone deepening since World War II.
The federal project is budgeted at $379 million, and Menta said it will provide millions of dollars of economic benefit.
“We’re hopeful we’ll have the project under way by the end of the year,” Menta said. “We’re down to the wire now. We’ve done what we need to do. We’re ready to issue contracts.”
Menta said the project is estimated to take about five years to complete.