State Politics

Corps gets more dredging money to unclog Morehead City port channel

The Obama administration has allocated an extra $4.1 million to pay for more extensive dredging aimed at clearing out a sand-clogged navigation channel that is creating expensive delays for shippers at the Morehead City port.

The additional funding, announced Tuesday, means the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has $8.9 million to spend this year to improve navigation at Morehead City. Gov. Pat McCrory praised U.S. Sens. Thom Tillis and Richard Burr and U.S. Rep. Walter Jones for their help in securing the new money.

"Ensuring access to our ports is critical because it supports thousands of jobs in Eastern North Carolina," McCrory said in a news release.

The heaviest shoaling in decades at Morehead City has reduced the safe navigable depth for freight ships by 10 feet, forcing shippers to lighten their loads - at a cost of more than $2 million a month for the port's biggest customer, PotashCorp Aurora.

The Corps of Engineers was unable to secure competitive bids last month for dredging worth about $4 million, McCrory's office said. The added money, part of a new $54 million allocation announced Tuesday for the Corps of Engineers Wilmington District office, will pay for more extensive dredging than had been planned earlier.

More dredging money also was earmarked for Oregon Inlet and the Intracoastal Waterway.

"The additional funding of two of the state's important navigation projects at Morehead City Harbor and Manteo will allow us to perform additional dredging and at least alleviate the emergency conditions in the short term," Col. Kevin Landers, the Corps of Engineers commander in Wilmington, said in a news release.

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