Craney Island funds sought

Published 12:15 am Saturday, November 7, 2015

Twelve of 13 members of Virginia’s congressional delegation — Democrats and Republicans alike — put their names to a letter Thursday urging President Obama to support continued funding of an expansion to Craney Island.

Both U.S. senators from Virginia and 10 of the commonwealth’s 11 congressmen cooperated on the plea for more money to expand the dredge facility on the James River near the border of Suffolk.

When complete, the facility would be turned into a marine terminal, nearly doubling the cargo capacity of the Port of Virginia.

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“We write to share our strong support for the Craney Island Eastward Expansion, a partnership of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Virginia Port Authority,” the legislators wrote.

“As bipartisan members of the Senate and House from Virginia, this is our top civil works funding priority. This project has national implications for commerce throughout the eastern half of the country.”

The letter calls on the president to support the project through up to $50 million in appropriations in 2016 and 2017, noting that the economic benefits could reach $16 billion “through developing critical domestic infrastructure, increasing port capacity, improving navigation, creating jobs, and reducing transportation costs for American businesses.”

“We believe the Craney Island Eastward Expansion has clear benefits for the nation and is worthy of federal support,” they wrote.

The only congressman from Virginia not to sign the letter was Rep. Morgan Griffith, who represents Virginia’s 9th District, which covers the far western portion of the state.

So far, the federal government has contributed $33 million to the project, which has cost more than $100 million to date, with no federal funds contributed since 2012. The total cost is expected to be about $1 billion, according to the letter. The original congressional authorization had envisioned the project relying on a 50-percent contribution from the federal government.

“As ship sizes and cargo volumes increase, east coast ports need additional capacity to meet the nation’s cargo demands,” the letter states. “The Port of Virginia’s location within a day’s drive of two-thirds of the U.S. population makes it a vital piece of the nation’s multi-modal commercial and transportation system.”

An economic impact study completed by the Mason School of Business at the College of William & Mary concluded that Virginia’s port activities support 374,000 jobs, generating $17.5 billion in wages annually and contributing $1.4 billion in state and local taxes.