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PANYNJ to Consolidate 50-Foot Project

As the visitors' boat pulled away, Beverly Fedorko took this photo of the Tauracavor in the Kill Van Kull.

As the visitors' boat pulled away, Beverly Fedorko took this photo of the Tauracavor in the Kill Van Kull.

Rick Larabee, left, and Tom Wakeman recreating the port expansion plan.

Rick Larabee, left, and Tom Wakeman recreating the port expansion plan.

Maps, charts and lists adorn a wall where Wakeman and staff put the plan together from memory.

Maps, charts and lists adorn a wall where Wakeman and staff put the plan together from memory.

From left, Beverly Fedorko, Jim Thomas, Steve Pace and Frank Belisimo on the Tauracavor in late November.

From left, Beverly Fedorko, Jim Thomas, Steve Pace and Frank Belisimo on the Tauracavor in late November.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) plans to complete the 50-foot deepening project at Bergen Point in the Kill Van Kull in one step instead of the originally-planned two projects. The Port Authority proposes to piggyback its work on an existing Corps of Engineers construction project, which is deepening the area from 40 to 45 feet. The plan is contingent on a Corps of Engineers permit to drill, blast and dredge the approximately 1.5 million cubic yards of rock from Bergen Point.

Blasting in an earlier contract for the 45-foot project had caused adverse citizen reactions to noise and vibration. The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) 2000 authorized the construction of a 50-foot channel in the same region as is currently being deepened to 45 feet. (WRDA 2000 authorized deepening to 50 feet in all the main channels in the Port of New York and New Jersey.) The plan had been to come back and blast again in two years. It seemed that consolidating the blasting of the channel bottom would save the citizens the irritation, and it was better environmentally for fish and other aquatic organisms.


A Corps of Engineers public hearing on the proposal, held Thursday January 24, revealed broad community support for the plan. Nearby residents, who have experienced blasting in the channel in the past, stated a preference for the single project. The Corps of Engineers will take public comments until February 5, and analyze statements from state and federal agencies before making the permit decision.

This approach will save 25 percent of the cost of doing the deepening in two projects, said Thomas Wakeman, general manager responsible for dredging with the Port Commerce Department. Other cost savings are from elimination of mobilization costs and the cost of administering the bidding process for another contract.

If the permit is issued, it allows the PANYNJ to proceed with an amendment to the contract underway by Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company and Bean Stuyvesant.

Great Lakes is using the backhoe dredge New York, and Bean is using the Tauracavor, both Liebherr excavators. They are in part 6, area 3 of the Kill Van Kull. The contract is for 2,004,000 cubic yards of material, and the dredges are loading into scows that range from 3000 cubic yards to 5000 cubic yards, and placing the material in the Historic Area Remediation Site (HARS) off the coast of New Jersey, a 7.5 hour round trip. The scows are moved by the American Champion, owned by American Marine, and the William Colnan, owned by Great Lakes.

Chris Gunsten is project manager for Great Lakes and Frank Belisimo is project manager for Bean Stuyvesant.

The next contract, part 5, area 5, is the portion that includes Bergen Point, and will require blasting of rock, which will b done by Great Lakes equipment, and dug by the New York and the Tauracavor.

The Port of New York and New Jersey has four authorized channel deepening projects underway: the above-mentioned Kill Van Kull/Newark Bay 45-foot channel, the Arthur Kill 40/41-foot channel, the Port Jersey 41-foot channel and the new 50-foot harbor deepening project. The consolidation approach for the 50-foot deepening was enabled by last year’s Energy and Water Appropriations Act of 2001. The paragraph in the Energy and Water Appropriations Act, signed by the president on November 12, 2001, states:

“The conferees are aware of the urgent need to facilitate efficient construction of improvements for New York and New Jersey Harbor to meet the needs of navigation interests and save significant federal and non-federal resources.”

The legislation directs the Secretary of the Army to combine the Arthur Kill Channel, Howland Hook Marine Terminal, Kill Van Kull and Newark Bay Channel, New York and Adjacent Channels, and the New York and New Jersey Harbor into a single project designated the New York and New Jersey Harbor, New York and New Jersey project. The construction, general and general investigations budget for these projects are combined, and provide $88,500,000 for the project. The bill directs the Secretary of the Army to use the funds to continue deepening all channels to the depths authorized in WRDA 2000.

When WRDA 2000 authorized the 50-foot project, the PANYNJ began seeking opportunities to consolidate the channel construction projects to save money and possibly time.

Members of the Port Commerce Department were well into the complex planning of this expansion when the World Trade Center towers, which housed their offices, were destroyed. All documents, records, contact lists and other information disappeared and had to be re-created. The Commerce Department moved into temporary quarters at Port Elizabeth, New Jersey, and the New York Marine Terminal, Brooklyn, and began the task of re-creating its project.

On November 30, Wakeman was working in a conference room where he had filled half the wall space with flow charts, purpose statements and maps, all produced from memory. Everyone in this building had had offices in the World Trade Center, and there was a determined atmosphere of business as usual, while posters commemorating the tragedy adorned the walls of most of the cubicles. Wakeman had an air of weariness from the months of efforts to rebuild the plan, and from dealing with the emotional residue of September 11. He and his wife were at the airport to meet their daughter’s plane when they heard that the World Trade Center had been destroyed. They then heard that a plane had crashed in Pennsylvania, and spent harrowing minutes until they found that it was not their daughter’s plane. The shock continues to affect the family, he said.

When the plane hit Tower 1, the building rocked, said Richard M. Larrabee, who was in his office on the 62nd floor. Larrabee is director of the Port Commerce Department.

“It took us 45 minutes to get down”, he said, and he took refuge in the nearby Marriott Hotel, which also collapsed. He made his way through dust that obscured all light, not knowing where he was until he found himself at the Coast Guard Station in lower Manhattan, where he took a shower, donned borrowed coveralls, and got a boat to New Jersey. After calling his wife to tell her he was safe, he continued to work, and didn’t go home for four days.

“Most of the people in the Port Authority went back to work that day,” he said. Almost a million people were evacuated from Lower Manhattan by water.

“Today we are as focused as ever,” he said.

“After September 11, as we crawled out of the rubble, people were saying ‘what can we do to help?’” said Larrabee. “Our agenda is getting our 50-foot project.”

“We went to our congressional delegation and said we needed legal language to allow us to spend the appropriated money smarter. We got great help from our delegation and their staffs, and got the language that consolidated all the channel deepening projects into one,” said Larrabee.

Wakeman explained that this would allow the port to start creating project cooperation agreements (PCA) with the federal government for each stretch of deepening that has been authorized. This PCA process takes about one year, he said.

“We couldn’t do this without Tom Wakeman,” said Larrabee. “The dredging program is the most solidifying element of the port. There is a tremendous desire to get involved in the project,” he said.

The channel deepening is only part of a regional transportation logistics network, and the goal is to take the business plan and align it with the engineering plan and align that with the capital plan, said Larrabee. The Port Commerce Department’s master plan for port redevelopment includes intermodal links, an upland transportation network of roads and rail, and environmental mitigation as well as the channel deepening.

The commercial ware of global commerce is growing, said Larabee. Ninety-five percent of all imports and exports go through the ports, and the Port of New York and New Jersey is a vital link in that network. The growth plan is focused around the theme of “Staying in the Game”, he said.

Larrabee explained that there is public pressure for the PANYNJ to have a presence in Manhattan, and the Commerce Department moved into offices in Manhattan in the middle of January. They are settled in offices on Park Avenue South but will move to permanent offices in three or four years.

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