In a big legal victory for the Port of Philadelphia, a federal judge says the Army Corps of Engineers can proceed with plans to dredge 102 miles of the Delaware River to provide the port with a 45-foot-deep shipping channel.
U.S. District Judge Sue L. Robinson of Wilmington, Del., rejected a bid by environmentalists to halt the project. "This is great news for the many families that rely on the Delaware River for their livelihood," said John H. Estey, chairman of the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority.
The port authority, the dredging project's local sponsor, had joined the suit in support of deepening the channel from its current 40 feet. Judge Robinson had agreed in January to allow the dredging to start along an 11-mile stretch south of Wilmington. Dredging on that segment has been completed.
Robinson ruled this week that the entire project can proceed and denied a motion by the State of Delaware and environmental groups seeking to block future dredging. The project is scheduled for completion in 2015.
A parallel lawsuit against the deepening, brought by the State of New Jersey and environmental groups, is still outstanding in Trenton. U.S. District Judge Joel A. Pisano has given the parties until Dec. 3 to settle their differences and has said he is prepared to rule if they do not.
Estey said the dredging is necessary for Philadelphia's port to grow. "If we do not deepen, the ports along the Delaware are destined to become 'niche' ports, with limited cargo-handling ability, costing thousands of good jobs. If we deepen the channel, we'll create thousands of jobs."
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