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River dredging is a natural routine
Tina Markoe Kinslow/Courier-Post file

Weeks Marine, a local dredging company, will use equipment like this to remove silt around five shipping berths operated by the South Jersey Port Corp.
Over the years, the Delaware has been dredged to accommodate larger ships:

Natural depth: 17 feet

1885: dredged to 26 feet

1899: 30 feet

1910: 35 feet

1938: 37 feet

1941: 40 feet

? Engineer Corps

Any day now, a Camden firm will begin dredging the Delaware River and dumping spoils into a basin just north of the Commodore Barry Bridge in Gloucester County.
This is not the five-year, $300 million dredging project that has paralyzed the Delaware River Port Authority for months because New Jersey and Pennsylvania officials disagree on the value of deepening the navigational channel to 45 feet from 40.
This is the routine-maintenance dredging of silt that builds up over time around the piers and berths that line the Delaware River.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintains the depth of the 102-mile channel at 40 feet. Waterfront pier owners are responsible for clearing the way from the main channel to their individual berths. For example, when a tanker leaves the channel and heads to a Camden marine terminal or a Paulsboro refinery to unload, pier owners must maintain the depth to and around the docks.
Left to Mother Nature, the channel's natural depth is 17 feet, said Joseph Balzano, executive director of the South Jersey Port Corp., a quasi-state agency that owns and operates two marine terminals in Camden.
The corporation's board approved a resolution Monday to hire Weeks Marine, a local dredging company and the only bidder, to remove about 55,000 cubic yards of river bottom around its five berths for about $950,000. Weeks owns the only private dredge site on the river with state Department of Environmental Protection approval. It parallels the edge of Bridgeport and Gibbstown.
Dredging is a way of life on the river, which is why advocates of deepening the channel cannot understand why some New Jersey officials oppose it so strongly. It's a low-tech process that involves scooping out the river bottom with a massive clamshell bucket, dumping it onto a barge, then moving the barge by tug to the dredge site.
The volume of dredge spoils from deepening the entire channel between Camden and Cape May is 26 million yards, as compared to 55,000 cubic yards for the Camden terminals project.
About 7.3 million cubic yards is expected to be pristine because it would come from the bay. That is not controversial because it would be used for essential beach restoration. The rest, however, could be tainted and would not be welcome in some of South Jersey's waterfront communities. Exactly where it would go and at what price has not been determined.
"We have to provide safe passage from the channel; it's not optional," said Balzano.
Camden ports need to be dredged every five or six years, said Michael L. Fasnacht, of Hudson Engineers.
The work must begin soon to be complete by the beginning of spawning season for shad and striped bass. The state does not allow disturbances on the river during spawning season.
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