Obama urged not to fund Delaware River deepening project

Thursday, 26 January 2012 18:48
obama052311_optBY TOM HESTER SR.

59 New Jersey and out-of-state conservation and civic organizations have joined in a letter to President Obama asking him not to allow his administration to allocate more money for the Delaware River deepening project.

The groups see the Army Corps of Engineers project to deepen the river from Delaware Bay to north of Camden as environmentally destructive and economically wasteful. Deepening is currently being done off Delaware.

Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper said, “The legal and environmental precedents being set here on the Delaware River are already reverberating across the country; the Army Corps is now attempting to smother States rights and sovereignty on the Savannah River using the same model it has been implementing here on the Delaware River.

“There is expert data and reports demonstrating the environmental harms and the economic losses deepening the Delaware River poses for our region and the nation, it would not be appropriate for the President to stifle the public discourse or circumvent the legal process by providing direct Presidential funding as Senators from Pennsylvania are seeking,” van Rossum added.

U.S Senators Pat Toomey (D-Pa.) Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) have been urging Obama to provide funding for the deepening in his presidential budget; as well as urging the creation of the $74 million fund the Corps of Engineers might use for the project. Neither Obama nor President Bush have included the deepening project in their presidential budgets. Funds have only been specifically received for the project via the earmark process.

The project would deepen the Delaware’s main navigation channel from 40 to 45 feet. The Government Accountability Office has issued two reports and testified before Congress on this project; each time questioning or challenging the Corps of Engineers claims of benefits.

In 2009 the State of Delaware denied needed state permitting for the project. Currently, New Jersey, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, the National Wildlife Federation, Clean Water Action, the NJ Environmental Federation, and the Delaware Nature Society are in federal court challenging the use of a 14-year-old environmental impact statement in support of the project, as well as what they charge is the Corps of Engineers’ failure to comply with legal obligations under the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Coastal Zone Management Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and Delaware State law.