NORFOLK, VA – The effort to make the Norfolk Harbor wider, deeper and safer took a significant step forward today as the plan outlining the project’s national economic benefits was approved by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to take its next step forward.
“This is an infrastructure project that holds value for Virginia, the national economy and national defense,” said John F. Reinhart, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority. “The long-term economic benefits of this project include job creation, economic investment and the efficient flow of goods to Virginians, to multiple markets in the Mid-Atlantic and into the nation’s Heartland. Additionally, there are benefits to the U.S. Navy and all the users of the harbor.”
On Friday, the Army Corps’ leadership in Washington, D.C., accepted the wider, deeper, safer effort’s National Economic Development benefit (NED) plan, which estimates the value to the nation of large civil works programs that will be funded, in part, by the federal government. The value of these programs is expressed in terms of each program’s contributions to NED benefits and revenues to the federal government.
“This positive outcome is the result of collaboration within our agency, with The Port of Virginia, and the many stakeholders that rely on this critical infrastructure,” said Col. Colonel Jason E. Kelly, commander, Norfolk District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “Today’s event is a great example of Army Corps process evolution. This project will greatly impact existing inefficiencies in a positive way.”
Today’s decision allows the wider, deeper, safer project to move forward to its final review by the Army Corps in June. In anticipation of a positive outcome of that review, $20 million has been included in the pending state budget to immediately begin preliminary engineering and design work on the project.
In June 2015, the port and the Army Corps’ Norfolk District office began collaborating on the wider, deeper, safer effort to prepare the port for the next generation of container vessels. The port’s channels and harbor are already 50 feet deep and the largest container ships in the Atlantic trade are calling Virginia. Deepening to 55 feet and widening the channel to 1,300 feet will allow for the big ships to load to their limit and make way for two-ship traffic.
“When one of the big vessels passes through the harbor today, there is a temporary closure of the channel to all other commercial ship traffic,” Reinhart said. “Widening the channel allows for two-way traffic, increases the pace of commerce and makes way for the expeditious movement of Navy vessels in a time of need.
“We are grateful for the careful consideration given to the project and the ongoing work of the Norfolk District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, our partner in this effort. It is also important to thank Virginia’s Congressional delegation that are supporting our vision.”