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Channel-deepening project hits another milestone

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Efforts to deepen and widen the Norfolk harbor met a new milestone last week.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved the National Economic Development (NED) benefit plan for the project, which estimates the value of civil works projects to the nation. The project would be partially funded by the federal government.

The project now is expected to move forward to a final review in June. In anticipation of a positive outcome, $20 million is currently in the state budget that would allow preliminary engineering and design work to being immediately.

A longtime priority of the maritime community, the port and Army Corps’ Norfolk District officially began a study to deepen and widen the Norfolk channel from 50 feet to 55 feet in 2015. The Port of Virginia currently can handle the largest ships calling on the East Coast ports, but deeper channels would allow the cargo loads to increase on the biggest carriers visiting the port today.

The project would also widen the channel at some spots to 1,300 feet. Now when the ultra-large container vessels (ULCV’s) come through the channel, part of the channel is temporarily closed to other commercial traffic.

“Widening the channels allows for two-way traffic, increase the pace of commerce and makes way for the expeditious movement of Navy vessels in a time of need,” John Reinhart, CEO and Executive Director of the Port of Virginia, said in a statement.

Virginia Business reported on the widening project in the cover issue of its September issue. 

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