The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has preliminarily approved a project to dredge Virginia’s Norfolk Harbor from 50 feet to 55 feet, but a final decision on whether to fund it will come this summer.
As part of the construction, the channel into the port would be widened to 1,300 feet to allow Neopanamax containerships to fill to capacity and easily navigate to the berth.
The Army Corp of Engineers concluded the project provides national economic benefits, qualifying it as able to receive federal dollars. A final decision will come in June, but the initial approval helps the Port of Virginia compete with the Port of Charleston, S.C., and the Port of Savannah, Ga., to court domestic and international beneficial cargo owners to use its terminals.
“When one of the big vessels passes through the harbor today, there is a temporary closure of the channel to all other commercial ship traffic,” Virginia Port Authority CEO John Reinhart said. “Widening the channel allows for two-way traffic, increases the pace of commerce and makes way for the expeditious movement of Navy vessels in a time of need.”
“Today’s event is a great example of Army Corps process evolution. This project will greatly impact existing inefficiencies in a positive way,” added Col. Jason E. Kelly, commander of the Norfolk District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe allotted $20 million to preliminary engineering and design in his 2018 proposed budget before his term expired.
“This is an infrastructure project that holds value for Virginia, the national economy and national defense,” Reinhart said. “The long-term economic benefits of this project include job creation, economic investment and the efficient flow of goods to Virginians, to multiple markets in the Mid-Atlantic and into the nation’s Heartland. Additionally, there are benefits to the U.S. Navy and all the users of the harbor.”