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Posted 10/17/2014

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By Steve Rochette & Ed Voigt
USACE Philadelphia District

PHILADELPHIA (Oct. 16, 2014) – Vice President Joe Biden visited Penn's Landing to tour ongoing Delaware River Main Channel Deepening operations and discuss the importance of dredging and maritime commerce to the economy.

Biden was joined by Sen. Bob Casey and Reps. Bob Brady and Chaka Fattah from Pennsylvania, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Philadelphia District Commander Lt. Col. Michael Bliss, state and local officials and port and industry representatives.

"This project will have a profound impact on the economic landscape of this region," said Biden, who discussed the thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of cargo associated with the ports along the Delaware River.

Biden said the Delaware River has been the artery of commerce for the region for more than 300 years and, fundamentally, little has changed.

"There is a confluence of capabilities here with the existing infrastructure, a skilled workforce, and forty percent of the U.S. population lives within a one-day drive of the port," said Biden. "But, thirty percent of ships need a deeper channel for navigation. And by 2017, there will be 600 more ships built that require a 40 to 45 foot depth for navigation."

Many years in the making, the deepening of the Delaware River federal navigation channel from 40 to 45 feet, from Philadelphia to the sea, is now well past the halfway point, with five dredging contracts completed and two contracts under construction. The $300 million project will provide for more efficient shipping to and from the Delaware River ports, mostly by accommodating the larger container vessels that will soon be coming through an expanded Panama Canal.

Officials toured the 54, a mechanical bucket dredge owned and operated by Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company under a $25 million contract to deepen the northernmost section of the channel, between the Ben Franklin and Walt Whitman Bridges in Philadelphia. 

"The average person rides over the (Ben Franklin Bridge) and they look down and they have, understandably, no idea how much of their economic well-being depends on what happens at this port," Biden said. "We need this work, we need this port."

After touring the dredge, Biden thanked Lt. Col. Bliss and the Army Corps, the congressional delegation, and the port community for their ongoing project support.

In remarks leading up to the vice president's, Casey said investing in infrastructure and waterways is essential to economic development in the region and nation. Brady, who has advocated for the project for many years, thanked the state, local, and industry officials for supporting the project and contributing non-federal funding for construction. Fattah highlighted the thousands of direct and indirect jobs associated with the Port of Philadelphia.   

Also attending the event were representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard; Philadelphia Regional Port Authority; Maritime Exchange for the Delaware River and Bay; Port of Wilmington; South Jersey Port Corporation; Pilots' Association for the Bay and River Delaware; Delaware River Waterfront Corporation; Independence Seaport Museum; Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company; and other state, local, industry and labor organizations.   

commerce Congressman Brady Congressman Fattah Delaware River dredging Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company infrastructure Lt. Col. Michael Bliss Main Channel Deepening navigation Philadelphia Regional Port Authority Senator Casey U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Philadelphia District Vice President Joe Biden