PORTSMOUTH Va. -- Often referred to as the jewel of Hampton Roads, the Norfolk District put Craney Island Dredged Material Management Area on display through a partnership of port, state and corps officials for Sen. Tim Kaine Thursday.
Kaine, who is on a two-week tour throughout Virginia, saw and heard firsthand how vital the facility’s continued use and expansion is to the economy of the nation.
“Expanding Craney Island will be a huge boost to the Virginia economy and the national economy,” said Kaine. Because of natural features, a soft bottom and no significant clearance issues with bridges or tunnels - we can dredge to widths and depths in this channel that no one else can on the East Coast."
The expansion of Craney Island serves two purposes; the first, is extending the life of the facility further into the future. The second, creating a spot for a new port facility.
"Craney Island represents one of the rare opportunities where organizations at the local and regional level partner with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to improve and maintain a world-class port that directly contributes to national military and economic power," said Col. Paul Olsen, Norfolk District commander. "Sen. Kaine's presence, as well as the leaders from the commonwealth and the Port of Virginia, underscores this fact."
The facility’s vitality to the region comes in that it is a centrally located site with the ability to provide a low cost means for environmentally acceptable placement of dredged material.
Other ports along the East Coast have to send dredged material farther, including ocean placement or trucking it to upland sites, which increases dredging costs.
Because of Craney’s cost-saving abilities and the natural soil conditions in the region’s waterways, which are mostly sand and clay compared to bedrock to the north and coral reefs and limestone to the south, the Port of Hampton Roads has been able to adapt to larger, deeper draft ships at a much lower cost than other East Coast ports.
This has allowed the Port of Hampton Roads to compete with the other East Coast ports through the years, surpassing many and now handling the second most tons of cargo on the East Coast with only the Port of New York & New Jersey handling more.
While the costs are cheaper than other ports, representatives from the Virginia Port Authority, Virginia Maritime Association and Virginia Pilot Association stress that there is a gap between what is funded and what is needed, a point Kaine vowed to assist with.
"It is really important that a significant portion of the investment be on the federal shoulder because the dredging not only serves the commercial interest of the nation but also serves the military interest of the nation,” Kaine said. “Coming and seeing Craney Island in person with my staff today will enable me to be a better advocate.”
For Virginia Port Authority officials, the senator’s visit gives them the opportunity to highlight where they are now and where they want to go in the future with his help.
"The Port of Virginia has a great history of working with Sen. Kaine going back to when he was governor; we are excited for him to see firsthand the work here at Craney Island and the potential for the nation and the commonwealth in relation to channel deepening and eastward expansion of Craney Island," said Andrew Sinclair, director of government affairs at the Port of Virginia.