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Army Corps New York Harbor Deepening Reaches Finish Line

New York District
Published Sept. 2, 2016
At a historic event held September 1, 2016 in Bayonne, NJ, various dignitaries, Congressional members, and other elected officials gathered with leaders from the U.S. Army, Corps of Engineers and The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, to mark the completion of the Port’s main navigation channel deepening, a major milestone in the Port’s ongoing efforts to assure its global competitiveness, continued economic growth, and job creation.

At a historic event held September 1, 2016 in Bayonne, NJ, various dignitaries, Congressional members, and other elected officials gathered with leaders from the U.S. Army, Corps of Engineers and The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, to mark the completion of the Port’s main navigation channel deepening, a major milestone in the Port’s ongoing efforts to assure its global competitiveness, continued economic growth, and job creation.


The Port of New York and New Jersey is the premier gateway to the world. It is a conduit of global commerce and a major generator of jobs and economic activity. The Port is the largest one on the East Coast of North America, the third largest in the nation, and one of the most productive high-volume port operations globally.

At a historic event held September 1, 2016 at the Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, NJ, various dignitaries, Congressional members, and other elected officials gathered with leaders from the U.S. Army, Corps of Engineers and The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, to mark the completion of the Port’s main navigation channel deepening, a major milestone in the Port’s ongoing efforts to assure its global competitiveness, continued economic growth, and job creation.  Over 200 guests attended the event with a musical performance by the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, Hellcat Band.  Following the ceremony, a harbor inspection was conducted for distinguished guests onboard the Army Corps vessel Hayward which circumnavigated the Kill Van Kull federal navigation channel with up close views of the Port facilities only available on the water. 

During the course of a multi-year effort, the port’s main shipping channels were deepened to allow larger vessels to reach the Port’s container terminals that rely on deep channels to transport cargo.

Speakers at the ceremony included Col. David Caldwell, Commander, Army Corps' New York District;  Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Hon. Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works;  Mr. Jake Broder-Fingert, Senior Policy Advisor at the White House National Economic Council, Hon. Victor Mendez, Deputy Secretary of Transportation; Ms. Molly Campbell, Director, Port Commerce Department, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (the primary non-federal sponsor of the project); Hon. Kim Guadagno, Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of the State of New Jersey; Hon. Robert "Bob" Menendez, U.S. Senator for New Jersey; Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, (NJ 11th District); Rep. Albio Sires, (NJ 8th District); Rep. Donald Payne Jr., (NJ 10th District) and Rep. Dan Donovan, (NY 11th District).

They spoke about the significance of the program and project and lauded the delivery of the $2.1B project with global and National significance, $800M in cost savings, and beneficial use of dredged materials to enhance the environment.

"We, the Army Corps, are so proud of this accomplishment.  We worked closely with the Port Authority, Department of Transportation, other Administration partners, and state and local partners to get this "We Can't Wait" infrastructure project done, said, Hon. Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works.   "Together we are looking to the future, to keep our Nation competitive."

"I wish to commend every individual who labored, tirelessly, on the New York and New Jersey Harbor Deepening throughout any part of this project’s lifecycle," said Lt. Gen. Semonite. "No one accomplishes anything alone and projects of great magnitude, like the one we are celebrating today, are made possible with robust collaboration among diverse stakeholders." 

"It is an honor to celebrate this grand success today" said Col. Caldwell.  "Many of you here today were instrumental in driving this to completion and you should be proud of your contributions."

Caldwell also spoke about the partnership, synergy, and environmental impact of the program. "The effort has been a model for partnership where we were able to create and use synergy to expedite the removal of over 50 million cubic yards of dredged materials from the harbor without having major environmental impacts or having to close the port to navigation use.  All of the dredged material has been used beneficially for a variety of environmental and economic benefits."

"This harbor deepening may be the most important and influential project related to modern day economics in the Northeast. Modern-day container ships may now enter the port fully loaded and safely," he added. "The harbor deepening was accomplished safely even while the port remained opened throughout all phases of construction, whether dredging or blasting. This $2.1 billion project was executed in a manner that allowed for over $800 million in savings and all the dredge material was used beneficially to enhance the environment. But the true worth of the project is the benefits it will provide for people: locally or nationwide and now or in the future. The work we recognize with this completion is a testament to the dedication and hard work of the New York District, Port Authority and a host of partners and stakeholders.”

“Completion of the harbor deepening project is a major milestone in our efforts to meet the needs of the region’s 23 million consumers now and in the future,” said Port Authority Port Department Director Molly Campbell.  “It culminates more than 25 years of work and $6 billion in public and private sector investment to ready the port for the new generation of vessels, and will continue to support the 336,000 jobs and billions in economic activity the port generates.”  

The overall Harbor Deepening Program consisted of several contracts to deepen the navigation channels and involved deepening the major 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. 

The underwater highways deepened included the Ambrose Channel from deep water in the Atlantic Ocean to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the Anchorage Channel from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to its confluence with the Port Jersey Channel, the Kill Van Kull Channel, the main Newark Bay Channel to Port Elizabeth and the Port Elizabeth and South Elizabeth tributary channels, the Arthur Kill Channel adjacent to the New York Container Terminal, and the Port Jersey Channel.

The Port remained opened for waterborne commerce during the deepening evolution.

"The entire project couldn’t have been accomplished under one enormous contract. A section of a major shipping channel couldn't just be closed down while being deepened," said Bryce Wisemiller, Project Manager.  "The entire deepening, one side of a channel remained opened while the other side was being deepened."  “It’s much like leaving one lane open for traffic on a major expressway during construction while painting a stripe down the center of a highway,” said Wisemiller.  “The only difference is that it’s on the water.” “All drilling and blasting work throughout each contract was safely accomplished and closely monitored,” said Wisemiller. “The drilling and underwater blasting was crucial to navigation safety, allowing ships to safely maneuver.”

The New York District was ultimately responsible for the administration, construction of the massive project, with The Port Authority that has provided funding, identified designated placement sites for dredged material, assured the relocation of utilities that the Corps identified as obstacles to deepen, reviewed federal contract bid documents and assured that port ship berths were the proper depths as the navigation channels.

The Arthur Kill Channel deepening was the last construction element and was part of the more extensive harbor-dredging to create safe and efficient channels for a larger class of vessels that enter the Port.

All facets of the Harbor deepening were accomplished with safety as a first priority as contractors dredged the channels in a manner that protected the health and the environment. 

During the program, several areas along the kills contained solid bedrock which necessitated precision controlled, safe and staggered detonations underwater to fracture the rock for removal.   Areas of the Kill Van Kull and Arthur Kill Channels contained solid rock that was broken into smaller pieces by the use of underwater blasting and dredged with drilling being performed intermittently, with blasting being performed only during daylight hours.

Dredgers returned in August of 2013 to the Kill Van Kull Channel and completed bedrock removal in a small area off of Bayonne, where drilling and blasting was necessary for enhancing navigational safety in a small bend. The work lasted two months and required removal of bedrock through drilling and blasting in an area on the northern side of the channel.  In 2014 for the last time, they drilled holes into the harbor floor of the shipping channel, packed them with explosives and completed a final blast in the Arthur Kill.  The explosions were muffled by the water, with each blast a multiple explosion set off in rapid succession in a linear pattern.  Shock waves from each blast created a rippling foamy wave. 

The final contract for the 50 ft. channels, involved the removal of material in five separate utility corridors and other shoals in the Anchorage and Port Jersey Channels, was sequenced with the completion of the abandonment of two New York City Department of Environmental Protection water supply siphons within the Anchorage Channel as a new line was relocated deeper under the channel. This relocation by The Port Authority of NY & NJ and the New York City Economic Development Corporation was severely impacted and delayed by Hurricane Sandy. Two dredging contracts involved the removal of accumulated shoals and debris, partially due to Hurricane Sandy in previously deepened channel areas inside the Narrows, to facilitate the transition of the project from construction to operation and maintenance.

In addition to the economic benefits that the channels provide, the project also provided environmental benefits. 

Recognizing a need to offset the air emissions of tugboats and dredging equipment involved in the channel-deepening, a measure was taken with the New York City Department of Transportation that retrofitted Staten Island ferries with exhaust emission reduction devices and reduced air impacts associated with the project.  The Port Authority also led an effort that retrofitted tug boats operating in the region.  Tugboat engines were replaced and part of an air conformity requirement for the deepening that included replacing engines on each tugboat that reduced nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions and improved air quality.

The deepening necessitated the disposal of silt, clay and rock that are the byproducts of dredging.  With millions of cubic yards of dredged material, every cubic yard was beneficially reused. 

Artificial reefs off the New York and New Jersey shores were constructed using bedrock and glacial till, clays, and other suitable material.  Dredged material was also used to help remediate the Historic Area Remediation Site (HARS) in the Atlantic Ocean.  Dredged material was also used to cap landfills and Brownfield sites.

Dredged rock material is a valued natural resource that is environmentally beneficial for the construction of artificial reefs and used dredged material from the deepening in furthering the many improvements and enhancements in the New York and New Jersey Harbor Estuary, including constructing fish reefs in New York waters. The New York reef sites are strategically located near Long Island, N.Y. inlets and afford opportunities for smaller recreational vessels that cannot travel to offshore destinations to fish and dive.

The project has also aided the region in advancing ecosystem restoration. 

In Jamaica Bay, New York, dredged material was beneficially used to create new habitat.  Approximately 80 acres of marshland at Elders Point East and Elders Point West marsh islands were restored, and 44 acres of salt marsh was restored at Yellow Bar Hassock with the placement of 375,000 cubic yards of sand.  Approximately 625,000 cubic yards of sand was beneficially used to restore marsh islands at Yellow Bar, Rulers Bar and Black Wall from the Harbor Deepening Project including salt marsh restoration at the Woodbridge, New Jersey restoration site.

“Big projects like this are rarely easy—but they are worth it,” said U.S. Senator Bob Menendez.  “The harbor deepening will protect the 336,000 current port jobs in our region and allow that industry to grow.  It will ensure that area businesses have easier and more affordable access to global markets—particularly now with the completion of the Panama Canal expansion—and improve the shipping of goods to nearly 100 million American consumers living on the East Coast.  I was proud to have successfully pushed through the initial feasibility study that got this bold project off the ground when I was a Congressman representing the Port region, and I will continue to support efforts that make the Port of New York and New Jersey America’s premiere shipping terminal.” 

“As the former Mayor of New Jersey’s largest city, I have long understood the importance of the Port to the economy of our region, our State, and our local communities," said U.S. Senator Cory Booker. “Serving as the largest port on the East Coast and the third largest in the country, the Port of New Jersey and New York supports hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of personal income in the New York- New Jersey region. The completion of the Harbor Deeping Project reaffirms the Port’s status as the premier Port on the East Coast and demonstrates the readiness of the Port and maritime stakeholders to accept newer and larger cargo vessels, thereby creating greater economic opportunity in the region."

"The completion of the Harbor Deepening is a major achievement for the NY/NJ region, and for our nation's economic growth.  For almost twenty years we have recognized the changes happening in the shipping industry, and the necessity to deepen our port channels to handle new-Panamax ships and remain the major hub port on the eastern seaboard, said Rep. Jerrold Nadler. “As a senior Member of the Transportation Committee, I helped lead the fight to authorize and secure funding for the Harbor Deepening Project, and preserve the over 336,000 port related jobs throughout NY and NJ.  Thanks to the hard work of my congressional colleagues, the Port Authority, and the Army Corps, this project will maintain our competitiveness and I am proud to have contributed to its completion."

"It has been my pleasure to make the New York/New Jersey Harbor Deepening a personal priority in Congress for over twenty years on the House Appropriations Committee. These investments effect every American family and business on the East Coast. Hats off to the Army Corps, the Port Authority and its partners for a job well done for our states and nation!" Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen.

“On behalf of the members of New York Shipping Association, I thank the Army Corps of Engineers, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the congressional delegations of the States of New York and New Jersey for their long term commitment to seeing this project through to completion.  Our members depend on deep channels and unfettered accessibility to the port in order to safely and efficiently bring international commerce to our region and to the United States. The completion of the harbor deepening project is a vital, significant and historical accomplishment,” said John Nardi, President of New York Shipping Association.   

It’s not enough to deepen the channels. Now that they are deepened, the discipline of maintenance begins.

To ensure the uninterrupted flow of commerce, planned dredging of navigation channels, berthing piers and anchorage areas must continue because fine-grained waterborne sediment settle and accumulate on the bottom of waterways, causing shoaling which interferes with safe navigation.

The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey facilitated the movement of approximately 6.4 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU), in 2015, an increase of over 10 percent from the previous year.   The Port of New York and New Jersey’s six container terminals receive vessels from all of the world’s major ocean carriers serving nearly every region of the world.  Of the services that call on the Port of New York and New Jersey, 74 percent are first calls.

Using the expanded Panama Canal with a 50-foot draft will also reduce the CO2 footprint per Twenty-foot Equivalent units (TEUs).

Prior to the initiation of the Harbor Deepening Program, channels to the Harbor were inadequate to provide access to the large deep draft post-Panamax ships. The larger generation of container ships will save transportation costs for consumer products arriving from overseas, and are more environmentally friendly sporting more fuel-efficient engines while equipped with the latest technologies in air emission control systems.

Completion of the New York and New Jersey Harbor deepening adds a fourth East Coast port with a depth of 50 feet capable of handling the larger Post-Panamax containerships and other large vessels coming through the recently opened new Panama Canal locks and operating in global trade today.