This Week's Metro Column
Couldn't find a link for it quite yet, so here 'tis verbatim:
Beyond the Sea
By Brian Hickey
Much has changed since my 1991 high-school graduation. I have a college degree, marriage certificate, big-ole mortgage bill and can’t just stroll onto planes juggling samurai swords. The last part’s exaggeration. Nobody of sound body and mind juggles samurai gear.
Here’s something that doesn’t toy metaphorically, though: That year, Congress authorized the nine-figure Delaware River dredging project. Yet to this day, though the Navy Yard has been retrofitted with dreams of future vibrancy, the shipping channel remains five feet shallower than the 45-foot mark that longshoremen say the ships of today and tomorrow truly need to keep our ports on the A-list.
When the Army Corps of Engineers suspended channel-deepening in 2002, the response was that Philadelphia is teetering on the brink of becoming a jobs- and cargo-bleeding wasteland. But, Congress’ General Accounting Office questioned the economic benefits, with a side order of environmental concerns. There it was stalled until last month, when news arrived that the channel deepening would start as soon as January.
“The train’s left the station,” the metaphor-mixing Arlen Specter said while Gov. Rendell claimed it’d be a tri-state economic blessing, and that his state would shoulder the environmental fallout. (Fun fact: If ever asked how far having good White House friends goes, the answer is 102 miles.) Not-so-fast should be the dredging mantra, though.
Incoming N.J. Gov. Chris Christie picked right up where his predecessor left off in claiming, via legal brief, that toxic sediment could get pulled to the surface. Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden seems convinced he holds the state-permits trump card. Factor in another damn GAO study, and those in Philly’s corner seem to be banging their heads against a ship-wall.
“Dredging is essential to our livelihood,” explains longshoreman Flip Renzi of why his International Longshoreman’s Association brethren will hold a Start-Dredging-Now! Rally at Pier 98 (Delaware and Oregon), tomorrow at noon. “But, they’re studying it to death.”
With nearby competition already getting up to deepening speed, the ILA doesn’t want to miss a direct line from the Pacific through a refurbished Panama Canal; they claim that North Jersey is playing South Jersey vs. Philadelphia so Newark’s port can thrive. Politics aside, though, the ILA’s Martin Mascuilli says the “thousands and thousands of jobs, and the development of (the old Navy Yard)” makes it more important than ever.
If that’s not a shovel-ready stimulus program, I don’t know what is.
-- 30 --