The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Wilmington District has received an allocation of $95 million to pay for ongoing projects federally budgeted for the 2018 fiscal year, a portion of which will fund work on the navigation channel that provides business to the Port of Wilmington.
A tenth of that overall amount, just over $9.5 million in federal funds under the construction appropriation section of the Army Civil Works Program FY 2018 work plan for the Wilmington Harbor 96 Act project, is aimed at the work on the Cape Fear River, according to a recent news release from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The total $9.575 million in construction funds for the Wilmington Harbor project are to continue construction activities at the Eagle Island Dredged Material Disposal Facility to raise perimeter dikes, which will substantially increase future dredged material disposal capacity, said program manager Jonathan Bingham in an email.
“This is a critical activity for the Corps' navigation mission, as the Eagle Island Dredged Material Disposal Facility is utilized annually for the Wilmington Harbor Anchorage Basin maintenance dredging event,” he said.
All shipping operations to the Port of Wilmington depend on the navigation channel that is provided by the Wilmington Harbor federal navigation project, Bingham said. That channel stretches offshore and up the Cape Fear River to the port and just past the Isabel Holmes Bridge in Wilmington.
"Maintenance dredging is important to the long-term health of both the Wilmington and Morehead City Harbors. Maintenance dredging allows vessels to continuously and efficiently navigate to the Port of Wilmington and the Port of Morehead City, therefore, allowing North Carolina Ports to keep up with growing customer demand," N.C. Port officials said in an email.
Using federal operations and maintenance funds, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completes maintenance dredging in shoaled reaches on the project, Bingham said.
"The Corps has a strong relationship with [the ports], and coordinates weekly to optimize the project funding available to provide a navigable channel to the authorized depth (42 feet),” he said in the email.
N.C. Ports is studying enhancements to the Wilmington navigational channel to allow deep draft vessels to efficiently navigate to the Port of Wilmington, port officials said.
"Demand for access to the Wilmington Harbor is increasing as North Carolina has positioned itself as a freight gateway and important gateway to help mitigate East Coast congestion," port officials said. "A more efficient channel would attract more import and export business, supporting not just local and regional economies but the entire state of North Carolina."
In this allocation, funding was specifically received for disposal area improvements at Eagle Island, the Wilmington District’s dredged material disposal site located across from downtown Wilmington and the Port of Wilmington.
These costs are shared with the state, with the federal government providing 75 percent of the total project costs.
“Maintenance requirements are constant on most navigation projects. With additional funding, the Corps is able to remove additional material from channels to leave a more usable and safe channel for water-borne traffic,” Bingham said.
The FY18 work plan also provides $20 million under its operations and maintenance appropriation. Included in the funding is another $7.5 million for the Wilmington Harbor project and $12.6 million for the Morehead City Harbor project, according to the release.
“Both projects will use the funding to perform additional maintenance dredging for their deep-draft harbors,” Corps officials said in the release.
The operations and maintenance appropriation also includes $50,000 for Masonboro Inlet for routine hydrographic channel surveys and maintenance of jetty signage for safety, Bingham said.
“The additional funding for this year gives the Wilmington District a great opportunity to continue supporting our deep draft navigation infrastructure and to provide future dredge material disposal capacity for the Wilmington Harbor project,” Wilmington District Commander Col. Robert Clark said in the release. “In addition, we appreciate the support and collaboration from all of our non-federal sponsors and stakeholders.”