Delaware dredging appears more likely

The Army Corps' hopper dredge, the McFarland, unloads dredged material after doing maintenance dredging in the Delaware near Philadelphia.

With a project vital to the Philadelphia port’s future at stake, it’s good to see that at least along the Delaware River, politics ebbs for some at the water’s edge. Thanks to bipartisan efforts at both the state and federal level, nearly $63 million likely will flow over the next two years to advance the five-foot deepening of the river’s 102-mile channel.

The budget that President Obama announced Monday contained $31 million toward the work being directed by the Army Corps of Engineers — a landmark dredging effort that will enable bigger ships to reach the docks in the city and along the Camden waterfront. That follows Gov. Corbett’s smart move in September to direct another $15 million to the dredging, bringing Harrisburg’s share to more than 10 percent of the $300 million project.

The Army Corps of Engineers, meanwhile, recently announced that it will add $16.9 million this year for work along a 15-mile stretch of the river between Penn’s Landing and Essington. That work will begin over the summer, building on work started in 2010.

With the president’s announcement, most of the area’s congressional delegation — including two Pennsylvania Democrats, Sen. Robert P. Casey and Rep. Robert A. Brady, and the state’s Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, as well as Delaware Democratic Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons — get to take a bow.

Work by the members of Congress is being credited for the federal government’s decision to up its game on the dredging project. Thus far, Washington has shouldered only a small portion of what eventually will be its two-thirds share of the cost.

Even in tough economic times, it’s worth digging into the public coffers to accomplish deepening the channel from 40 to 45 feet. That effort will make the port more competitive with New York and other East Coast docks, and larger cargos will mean more port-related jobs and commerce for the entire region.

Given continued resistance to the dredging by some environmental groups, and New Jersey public officials who have mounted legal challenges, the largely united front presented by Pennsylvania and Delaware elected officials will be that much more critical to keeping the project moving as additional state and federal appropriations are sought.