Casey, Philly Delegation Push for Funding of Delaware River Deepening Project

PHILADELPHIA, PA— U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today met with the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority and stakeholders interested in the Delaware River Main Channel Deepening Project to discuss the importance of this project to the region’s economy. Senator Casey today joined members of Philadelphia’s congressional delegation in sending a letter to the White House calling for the inclusion of the project in the President’s fiscal 2012 budget.

“This project will create jobs and grow the region’s economy,” the members wrote. “This project will make maritime transportation more efficient and reduce shipping costs, and is necessary to sustain the economic viability of the ports along the Delaware River.”

Senator Casey led members of the Pennsylvania delegation, including Senator Arlen Specter, Congressman Chaka Fattah, Congressman Robert Brady and Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz in sending the letter to Jacob Lew, Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

The letter notes that the project, which will deepen the shipping channel from 40 feet to 45 feet to accommodate larger vessels, has the potential to create thousands of jobs and generate over $1 billion in revenue in its lifetime. The members stressed that any delay in the project will increase costs and harm the countless residents and workers in the region who will get a job, keep their job or otherwise benefit as a result of this project.

The full text of the letter is below:

Dear Mr. Lew:

We write to reiterate our strong support for the Delaware River Main Channel Deepening Project and to call for the inclusion of this important project in the President’s fiscal 2012 budget.  Thank you in advance for your consideration of our views.

This project was authorized by Congress in 1992 and calls for the deepening of the channel from 40 feet to 45 feet in order to accommodate larger vessels.  This project will make maritime transportation more efficient and reduce shipping costs, and is necessary to sustain the economic viability of the ports along the Delaware River.  The Corps began construction work on this project earlier this year but substantial progress will require a consistent federal investment.  In order to ensure that this project annually receives sufficient federal funding, we firmly believe that it should be included in the President’s budget.  

In our view, this project should be included in the President’s budget for a number of reasons.  First and foremost, the project will create jobs and grow the region’s economy.  According to some estimates, the deepening project has the potential to create thousands of new jobs and generate over $1 billion in revenue over the life of the project.  Any delay will increase costs and harm the countless residents and workers in the region who will get a job, keep their job or otherwise benefit as a result of this project.  

Additionally, the Corps has repeatedly determined that this project is both economically justified and environmentally sound, despite criticism that erroneously suggests otherwise.  The Corps has found that the project has substantial economic benefits and will clearly generate significant economic activity.  Moreover, the project’s environmental impacts are minimal, as evidenced by an Environmental Assessment completed by the Corps in April of 2009.   

This project is also ripe for inclusion in the President’s budget because a federal judge recently removed one of the few remaining legal hurdles associated with this project and determined that the Corps is acting in accordance with applicable federal law.  Your office can therefore be assured that funding provided for this project will be used in an efficient and effective manner.   

Finally, the Administration should include this project in the President’s budget as a matter of equity.  Congress has provided nearly $12 million for planning purposes and over $77 million since fiscal 1999 for construction.  It is our understanding that the Corps has spent around $22 million of the construction funds and the remaining money was reprogrammed for use on other projects.  The Pennsylvania delegation did not object to that reprogramming because the Corps made a commitment to reimburse the project once the deepening commenced.  While we recognized that current law limits the Corps’ ability to restore the funding, it is unacceptable for the deepening to stall because funding allocated for this project was spent elsewhere.  

For these reasons, we strongly believe that the Administration should include this project in the President’s fiscal 2012 budget.  Simply stated, this project will create jobs and grow the region’s economy.  Alternatively, the Delaware Valley region will be at a competitive disadvantage should the project not move forward or be unnecessarily delayed.  Inclusion of the project in the President’s budget therefore offers the Administration the opportunity to take proactive steps to bolster job creation and strengthen the region’s economy.  

Thank you for your consideration of our views.  In an era in which Congress appears unlikely to direct funding to specific projects, the Obama Administration must take affirmative steps to move this project forward.  Your leadership on this matter is therefore necessary.

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator

Arlen Specter
United States Senator

Robert A. Brady
Member of Congress

Chaka Fattah
Member of Congress

Allyson Y. Schwartz
Member of Congress

                                                                        
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