The United States Army Corps of Engineers has received a $200 million increase in its 2014 budget over the 2013 funding level and one senator is calling on the Corps to put the money to its best use.
On Wednesday, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer called on the Corps to use the extra funding to fully dredge six harbors that were impacted by Superstorm Sandy. One of those harbors is Barcelona, which, according to Schumer's figures, will cost $200,000 to return it to fully functional channel depths if the work is done when crews come this spring to dredge the harbor to pre-Sandy condition. If the Corps does not use the extra funding now available to have a complete dredging job done this year, returning in 2015 to make the channel fully functional would cost an extra $200,000.
Along with Barcelona, Irondequoit and Rochester harbors in Monroe County and Oak Orchard in Orleans County, Little Sodus in Cattaraugus County and Wilson in Niagara County are on Schumer's radar.
According to Schumer, if the additional dredging required to reach functional channel depth is put off for a year, the cost to complete that extra dredging for the six harbors will rise by nearly $2 million, based on initial preliminary estimates by the Corps. Schumer just helped secure the additional $200 million and noted that the funding is available to get these dredging projects completed this year. He urged the Corps to complete the remaining maintenance and dredging necessary for those harbors in one contract. Currently, the Corps plans to accept bids for only the Sandy-related work in the coming weeks. Schumer noted that the process of bringing dredging equipment to a harbor, known as the mobilization cost, is the bulk of dredging costs.
To complete Sandy-related storm repairs separate from the remaining need makes little fiscal sense for the Army Corps, will increase costs, and would delay long-awaited work that would boost business and recreational activities at Upstate New York harbors.
"With the necessary dredging equipment soon to be on site at six of our Upstate New York harbors and the federal funding in the bank, the U.S. Army Corps should just finish the job and get these critical water bodies to their fully-functioning depth and condition. It's great news that the Army Corps plans to soon accept bids for contracts to get these Upstate harbors, damaged during Sandy, dredged to their pre-storm condition. But it makes zero sense to complete that storm-related work and then stop without completing all the required dredging to finally allow these harbors to be used to their utmost potential, both for business and recreation. With the recent boost in appropriations that I fought to obtain for the Corps, I urge them to eliminate duplicative spending and expedite the full dredging of these harbors - let's get the job done," said Schumer.
Schumer cited estimates provided by the USACE that reveal it is more cost effective, by an estimated $1.89 million, to complete the additional dredging this year than to delay. The USACE estimates it will require only $2.2 million in additional funding this year to bring these harbors to fully functional channel depths, but that cost would nearly double to $4.15 million if this work was put off for just one year.
"Needlessly increasing costs to federal taxpayers by nearly $2 million is unwise," Schumer said.
Through the Sandy Supplemental Appropriations Bill there is approximately $685,000 set aside to dredge the recreational harbors: Barcelona, Irondequoit, Oak Orchard, Little Sodus and Wilson, and $1.2 million for the commercial harbors: Oswego and Rochester. Through that law, the USACE is permitted to use funding to dredge specific harbors to their pre-storm conditions and depths only.
With the harbors past due for dredging, even before Sandy, a return to pre-Sandy conditions will still leave the harbors not fully functional. For those Superstorm Sandy repairs, the Corps plans to accept bids for the recreational harbors on March 12 and accept bids for the commercial harbors beginning next week. The total bid for all the work is expected to come in around $1.8 million based on initial preliminary estimates by the Corps. However, the Corps does not intend to use their general fund - which now has sufficient funding - to complete the job while costly equipment is already on site.
In all, if the Corps does not follow Schumer's proposal and comes back in 2015 for a second round of dredging, the cost to get the channels to be fully functional would rise from $2,260,000 to $4,150,000.
Schumer said that not only is it critical to the local economies, recreation and business surrounding these harbors, but it makes eminent fiscal sense for the Army Corps. However, if the Army Corps completes the Sandy-related dredging through a separate contract than the dredging needed to achieve fully functional channel depths, the Corps will unnecessarily inflate overall costs.