Mike Connor, U.S. Army Corp assistant secretary of civil works, speaks during a briefing on May 29, 2024, in Bayonne, N.J.

Mike Connor, U.S. Army Corp assistant secretary of civil works, speaks during a briefing on May 29, 2024, in Bayonne, N.J. (Larry Higgs)

(Tribune News Service) — As cargo ships get bigger to accommodate goods that will eventually be delivered to consumer’s doorsteps, $51 million is being plowed into projects by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to make the Port of New York and New Jersey ready for next generation of big vessels.

Port Authority officials and Mike Connor, Army Corps assistant secretary of civil works, made the announcement Wednesday at the port in Bayonne. The infrastructure investments, totaling $51 million, are coming from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.

The work is part of the Army Corp’s 2024 work plan and includes work beyond the port for coastal resiliency, which includes beach erosion projects and an extensive estuary project in New York and New Jersey, officials said.

Of that, $32 million will fund deepening and widening the Gravesend Anchorage from 47 to 50 feet deep, which will provide a location for largest container ships to anchor between Ambrose Anchorage in the Atlantic Ocean and the seaport container terminals in New Jersey and New York.

That work, already underway, is on schedule to be competed in 2025, said Rick Cotton, Port Authority executive director.

Another project, that a pre-design contract has been signed for, would dredge New York harbor channels deeper to 55 feet between the sea and the Elizabeth marine terminal, a project estimated to be competed in the next 10 to 15 years, Cotton said. The $2.1 billion project to dredge the harbor to 50 feet was completed in 2016, he said.

“Ships from around the world are getting bigger,” Cotton said. “We are beginning to plan to maintain port growth.”

Why is it important? The Port of New Jersey and New York remains the busiest port on the East Coast and is second busiest in the nation, which supports 500,000 jobs and moves $200 billion in goods annually.

The work is covered by a project engineering and design effort between split evenly between the Port Authority and U.S. Army Corps for the New York/New Jersey Harbor Deepening and Channel Improvement Project.

“Today, we signed the PED agreement with the corps that will allow a study to get moving so we can further refine the construction schedule and the total construction cost,” said Bethann Rooney, the Authority’s ports director.

The harbor maintenance trust fund is spending money on infrastructure work collected in taxes by the major ports, she said. This program allocates funding to operators like the port authority to do additional work beyond what the Army Corps is doing, she said.

“It’s a new program. We’re providing money to the large ports so they can reinvest it and use it for the needs,” Connor said. “We recognize these large ports are contributing significant money to the harbor trust fund. We’re taking some of that, reinvesting and letting them make the decisions.”

Some of that work builds on a program the Authority announced last year to begin rebuilding public berth and wharves that ships dock and unload at and deepening them to accommodate bigger vessels.

“We’ll dredge berths, improve their condition and work on some of the wharves that need revitalization,” Connor said.

That effort parallels work deepening harbor channels, and stage 1 designs to improve public berths at the port in Newark that is used by roll-on, roll-off vehicle shipping and bulk vessels, authority officials said. It also increases dredging from 70,000- to 90,000-cubic-yards to 200,000-cubic-yards of material.

Plans call to use that dredged material in resiliency projects on the coastline, continuing the 100% use of dredged material in the 2016 harbor deepening project, Connor said.

That dovetails with a $50 billion coastal resiliency program in New York and New Jersey, which includes beach erosion projects in New Jersey and Staten Island’s southern shore, he said

“We are looking at new protective measures, whether it’s work we have to do to enhance shore lines and build beaches, gates on some tributaries to protect the port and a number of projects got going on, which is beach rebuilding in New Jersey and south Staten Island,” Connor said.

A companion program is a $500 million Hudson and Raritan Bay estuary program that he said is an “array of different projects, restoring wetlands and marine habituates, and building new islands in Jamaica Bay. After a study, 20 sites were selected that are moving out into design or construction,” Conner said.

©2024 Advance Local Media LLC.


Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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