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Port gets $18 million for harbor maintenance dredging

on June 2, 2011

The Port of Oakland just secured $18 million in federal funding for its harbor deepening project, said the port’s spokesperson Marilyn Sandifur on Wednesday. The funding is going to help the port receive maintenance dredging services from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in fiscal year 2011.

“The annual maintenance dredging is very important in terms of keeping [the harbor] navigable and safe,” said Sandifur. The initial project of deepening Oakland’s harbor from a depth of 42 feet to 50 feet took ten years to complete ending in late 2009 and cost $433 million, $190 million of which was contributed by the port. But Sandifur said it’s important to maintain that depth with maintenance dredging because channels are being filled with silt as unsettled materials shift onto the harbor floor.

Additionally, said Sandifur, “The ships are getting larger,” adding that a deeper harbor that accommodates the increasing number of large ships will attract more businesses while keeping the port’s current tenants.

“Everyone involved underestimated how much maintenance dredging would be required early on, ” said Isaac Kos-Read, director of external affairs of the port. Kos-Read said that the original budget to keep the harbor 50 feet deep was about $7 million but later it turned out to be a $25 million project.

While the expense of the annual maintenance dredging will likely decrease over time, as the materials surrounding the initially dredged channels settles, Kos-Read said, “we’re probably going to have to be fighting for this money every year.” He added that it took a joint effort between the port and its partners, notably Congresswoman Barbra Lee, to get the funding from the federal government.

According to Jim Haussener, executive director of the California Marine Affairs and Navigation Conference, between 2005 and 2008 the state of California averagely contributed 34 percent of the national Habor Maintenance Tax revenues but only received four percent of the expenditure of that money in return.

“It’s challenging to get the funding,” said Sandifur. “We have to go to Congress and ask for these funds to be allocated [for the maintenance dredging].”

The dredging will start in mid to late August, Sandifur said.

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