Environmental groups in Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey have engaged in court battles over the deepening project for years. On Tuesday, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled against the environmentalists, paving the way for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to finish the dredging the Delaware River to a depth of 40 feet. The Delaware News Journal has this from the court decision:
“For over twenty years, the Corps has devoted substantial efforts to evaluating the proposed five foot deepening project for the Delaware River. It has published three comprehensive NEPA reports, received multiple rounds of public comments, and had immeasurable communications with the relevant state and federal agencies,” the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals decision noted.”
The Corps has already dredged a 16-mile stretch of the river to the 40 foot level. The appeals court decision is a win for the ports of Philadelphia and Wilmington, which argued they needed a deeper river to compete with the port of New York for modern ocean-going vessels.
But environmentalists worry about the impact on water quality and endangered species and sought an updated environmental review. The Corps had conducted its main review 12 years ago. Maya van Rossum, with the Delaware Riverkeeper, says they’re disappointed by the decision.
“An injustice has been perpetrated on all of the communities that depend upon the Delaware River for clean water, healthy fish, and jobs worth hundreds of millions of dollars,” said van Rossum. “Sadly, the judges drew conclusions that were simply unsupported by the facts in manipulating their ultimate findings.”
Van Rossum says the environmental groups involved in the lawsuit plan to continue their fight. In the meantime, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to open bids on dredging a 9.5 mile stretch of river next month.