Study floated to deepen port

The US Army Corps of Engineers will study deepening the Oswego Harbor, seen above, federal officials announced Friday. PC: Oswego County News Now

Schumer, Katko say action would bring more jobs, exports

OSWEGO — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is set to conduct a feasibility study in 2020 for a potential deepening of the Port of Oswego Authority harbor, federal and port officials announced Friday.

In statements from Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and U.S. Rep. John Katko, R-Camillus, the politicians said they were pleased the Army Corps would be taking a close look at the only deep-water port on Lake Ontario.

“I’m so glad to hear that the Army Corps of Engineers has heeded my request and taken the crucial first step of authorizing a feasibility study on the deepening of Port of Oswego channel. Deepening the harbor will unlock new business opportunities from salties, increase grain exports sourced from local farmers and boost the local economy,” said Schumer. “A deeper channel could add millions of dollars a year in business to the port and create dozens of new, good-paying jobs, so I’ll keep fighting tooth and nail until this project’s viability is proven and funding is secured to get it underway.”

Port of Oswego Authority officials say the move will spur commercial traffic and attract larger ships to the port, leading to the creation of more jobs.

Through a federal Section 107 request found in the River and Harbor Act of 1960, the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) will begin the study early next year to look at deepening the water to 27 feet on the 3,000-foot federal navigation channel in the Oswego River, according to Port of Oswego Authority Executive Director William Scriber.

Currently sitting at 24 feet, a deeper water in the federal channel would match the water level found at the port’s entrance, which measures 27 feet. The project, Scriber noted, can take up to three years to complete, and will include a public hearing at the end of next year.

“This is good news for all of Oswego Harbor and all ships around here,” Scriber said. “We are very happy and this is going to attract bigger ships and generate more traffic. It is going to create more jobs. (Addressing the port depth) has been escaping previous administrations for a number of years; this (Board of Directors) is going full-out to make the port a large commercial entity on Lake Ontario.”

Scriber added the difference in depth between the federal channel and the entrance to the port “should have been addressed ages ago.”  The original depth was set in 1870, he said.

One of the major economic drivers in the area, the Port of Oswego Authority supports 209 jobs, $26 million in economic activity, $13.8 million in personal income and local consumption expenditures and $5.8 million in state and federal tax revenue, according to Schumer’s office.

Larger ocean vessels require at least 27 feet of depth to load due to a deeper draft and buoyancy but because of Oswego Harbor’s current depth, customers including Purdue Agribusiness are unable to navigate their “salty” vessels into the port. Schumer earlier this year pushed successfully to secure a waiver allowing the export of local soybeans to international markets; the port last year was forced to turn away 60,000 metric tons of grain.

Katko, R-Camillus, said a deeper port harbor would “undoubtedly create jobs, attract investments and drive growth and economic development” for years to come.

Katko’s comments on the port came just moments before the three-term congressman announced he would not support articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.

Scriber noted recent Port Authority achievements such as the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation’s (SLDC) Robert J. Lewis Pacesetter Award for the 2018 navigation season — which recognizes the port of Oswego for a 42 percent increase in overall international cargo tonnage from the previous year — as a sign of expansion.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District was awarded a $926,000 contract to conduct dredging in the federal navigation channel and harbor areas of Oswego Harbor. The dredging project, according to the USACE, aims to scoop 175,000 cubic yards of sediment from federal navigation channel and ultimately would ensure the port’s linking channels stay within regulatory depths imposed by federal authorities.

“The Buffalo District is looking forward to partnering with the board of Oswego and our stakeholders during this phase of the Feasibility Study,” said Lt. Col. Jason Toth, the commander of the Buffalo District.

 

 

SOURCE: Oswego County News Now