City faces roadblocks on dredging project

Progress-Index (Petersburg, VA), 2014-08-03


Aug. 03 -- PETERSBURG -- The city is facing high hurdles of red tape when it comes to realizing the dream of developing a harbor right on the edge of downtown, which city officials hope would bolster tourism and economic development. But the city must finalize agreements with Container First Services and the Army Corp of Engineers before the project can become a reality. Most importantly, the project must also be on the corp's priority list and receive $15 million in funding.

To ensure a navigable harbor, the corp is required to dredge a shallow mile-long stretch of the Appomattox river from the head of navigation near Pocahontas Island . The river was last fully dredged in 1949 and partially dredged in 1971 and 1993.

The harbor itself would be located near Pocahontas Island and behind Union Station .

Dredging the remaining mile-long stretch would complete the Appomattox River Federal Navigation Dredging project, which involves the operational and maintenance dredging of the Appomattox River from the city of Petersburg basin to its intersection with the James River . But work was paused on the project in 1993 when contaminants were discovered in the uncovered materials.

But a solution to the environmental issue was found in 2007 when the materials were a product in land farming at Shirley Plantation . Microbes were used to eat away at the contaminants. The method was shown to remove the contaminants, but funding and the attention of the corp is still required to continue the dredging.

City Manager William E. Johnson III and City Attorney Brian Telfair briefed council on the progress of the project during the second and last day of the Council Advance on Friday. The annual meeting lays out future priorities and objectives for the city.

Telfair said that since he was hired by the city 19 months ago, the city has been working on finalizing a cooperative agreement with the corp that would outline the city's and the corp's responsibilities for the project. The agreement has been revised by the corp three times since it was originally written.

The corp also said that the city required to enter into an easement agreement with Container First Services because dredging equipment would cross the company property and some dredged materials could be deposited in the CFS landfill. The easement agreement has also been returned to the city after three drafts.

Telfair was frustrated with the approval process.

"It's bureaucracy on top of bureaucracy," he said.

Johnson said that it was necessary to get help from legislators to speed the process along and that the city was working with Congressman Robert "Bobby" Scott , D- Va , to get an update from the corps on continuing the project.

City officials met with U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine on July 3 to brief him on the project and receive help procuring the $15 million required for the dredging.

So far, $4.5 million has been secured for $15 million project by U.S. Rep. J. Randy Forbes , R-4th. Forbes secured $749,000 in 2002; $1 million in 2003; $150,000 in 2004; $1.5 million in 2008; and $527,000 in the fiscal year 2009.

Kaine also spoke to the fact that the project would need to be moved up on the corp's priority list.

"It's tight times, but we have a very good relationship with the corp," he said. "It's elbowing your way into the line of projects.

- Leah Small may be reached at 722-5172 or lsmall@progress-index.com .

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