Mark it down: 2015 is the year that the crack of explosions will be heard and the ground will tremble on the banks of the Delaware River near Chester and across the way in New Jersey. The river itself will rise and bubble.
The End of Days?
Nope. It is all part of the massive Army Corps of Engineers Delaware River dredging project. They are deepening the Delaware from 40 to 45 feet along a 102-mile stretch so that bigger cargo ships can make it to the ports of Philadelphia and Wilmington.
The river section by Marcus Hook is the trickiest part of the deepening project because it’s a rock bed. The solution? Blow it up.
But don’t expect a crowd to gather along the Delaware to watch the spectacle. It’s not going to be anything like the explosions that brought down Veteran’s Stadium.
“It’ll sound like fireworks going off at Citizen’s Bank Park,” is the way Anthony De Pasquale, chief of operations for the Corps in Philadelphia explains it. “You’ll feel it if you’re right on the banks and the river will rise a little, but it’s not going to be much of a show.”
Still, for De Pasquale and the rest of the engineers at the Corp, this is their Super Bowl. For more than 30 years, the Philadelphia and Wilmington Ports have been losing business because the river wasn’t deep enough for big container ships. The Philadelphia Regional Port Authority and the local district of the Army Corp of Engineers watched with envy as ports in New York and Baltimore got federal deepening money, ignoring Philly.
Now it’s our turn.
The $350 million federal and state project actually started in 2010. “No one really noticed,” smiles Ed Voigt, the Corps’ Philadelphia chief of public affairs. “We’ve been busy dredging on barges for over 4 years.”
So have they brought up anyone who’d been sent to sleep with the fishes?
“No,” laughs De Pasquale. “But we have brought up several artifacts from the Revolutionary war, including cannon balls and other weapons.” The historical artifacts are handed over to Fort Mifflin on the Delaware.
The dredging will be completed in 2017 and is expected to bring thousands of jobs and billions of dollars to the area.
The deep river explosions off Delaware County late this year will be the crowning achievement of the project. The Corp is holding off until the winter because that is when there will be the least effect on wildlife in the area.
In the meantime, the deep water dredging continues without a whole lot of notice from the public, except, maybe, some nervous organized crime figures.
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For more on the dredging project, visit the Army Corps of Engineers project page.