In January 2014, Under Secretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal met with leaders from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, North Atlantic Division and New York District to receive various updates regarding the Corps’ efforts post Hurricane Sandy and observe the significant progress of the New York and New Jersey Harbor Deepening Project.
“Given the extraordinary efforts of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, it was my honor to visit the North Atlantic Division and New York District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to acknowledge their tremendous efforts and what they have achieved to repair the damage of this devastating storm,” said Westphal.
Westphal spoke with New York District’s senior leaders concerning the Hurricane Sandy Recovery Program, consisting of over 60 projects and $3 billion separated into three different phases. Both the Flood Control & Coastal Emergency and Operations and Maintenance phases are currently underway.
“I continue to be impressed by the Corps’ ability to perform outstanding Civil Works projects in the most populous part of our nation,” Westphal said.
To date, New York District has placed roughly five million cubic yards of sand onto beaches impacted by Hurricane Sandy. The District will place an additional 11 million cubic yards of sand onto beaches impacted by the storm by the end of 2014.
A vital component of the nation's economy
In 1999, while serving as the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, Westphal, along with then Vice President Al Gore, U.S. Senators Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg, New Jersey Governor Christine Whitman, and officials from The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, signed one of the initial project agreements to launch the harbor deepening project in Port Elizabeth, N.J.
"Securing funding for this project during my tenure as Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works is something I’m very proud to have been a part of. Almost 15 years later, the project is coming to fruition and I applaud the New York District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for their tremendous efforts and diligence to complete this monumental project," said Westphal.
This harbor deepening project is one of the District’s largest civil works projects and will provide a safe and economically efficient pathway for the newest generation of container ships that will be calling at the Port of New York and New Jersey following the completion of the Panama Canal expansion in 2015.
The Port is the largest on the East Coast, providing over 269,900 direct and indirect jobs in port related activities and $11.2 billion in personal income. The overall harbor deepening project consists of 17 contracts to deepen the navigation channels beginning from the Ambrose Channel entrance to the Upper New York Bay and Newark Bay, providing access to the Global Marine, New York Container, Port Newark, and Elizabeth Marine Terminals.
Westphal toured the port aboard U.S. Army Corps of Engineer drift collection vessel HAYWARD during a harbor inspection that included boarding a drill boat to get a first-hand look at drilling and blasting operations being performed in the Arthur Kill Channel off of the New York Container Terminal, Staten Island and Elizabeth, N.J.
Areas of the Arthur Kill Channel contain solid bedrock which necessitates precision controlled, safe and staggered detonations underwater to fracture the rock for removal.
The deepening of the Arthur Kill Channel is expected to be completed at the end of 2014 and will be the final milestone achieved in the overall 50 foot Harbor Deepening Project.
In addition to the economic benefits the channels provide, the Harbor Deepening Project also provides many environmental benefits in the form of millions of cubic yards of dredged material—nearly all which was beneficially used in several different manners, including artificial reef creation, remediation of the Historic Area Remediation Site in the Atlantic Ocean and ecosystem restoration including new habitat development in Jamaica Bay, New York.
Dredged material is also used for landfill closure and economic development in New Jersey such as the Jersey Gardens Mall in Elizabeth, and the Bayonne Golf Club.
The critical role of Army Civilians
Westphal also pointed out the need to keep in mind the important role of Army Civilians in bringing these projects to fruition, and thanked them for their dedication to the mission.
"We could never be the Army we are today without our Civilian workforce. The contributions of Army Civilians to the Warfighter, the Army and our nation's defense are immeasurable,” Westphal commented. “The Army's ability to posture for future requirements is very dependent on the strength of our Civilian workforce and I’d like to thank them for all they do as we navigate through very serious fiscal challenges. We are working very methodically to address them and ensure that our Army is always prepared to answer our nation's call," he concluded.