Virginia congressional delegation pushing OMB support for Norfolk Harbor project

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U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine are leading an effort to push the Norfolk Harbor project to the next stage.

Warner and Kaine, along with U.S. Reps. Bobby Scott and Rob Wittman, led the entire Virginia congressional delegation in sending a letter to the Office of Management and Budget requesting a New Start designation for the Norfolk Harbor widening and deepening project in the Army Corps Work Plan.

A New Start designation would allow the Norfolk Harbor project to advance to its next stage of construction and receive Army Corps funding.

Currently, the project is progressing using a combination of state and local funds.

“Thanks to the cooperation between the Port of Virginia, the Norfolk District, and the rest of the Army staff, construction on the first constructible element, deepening Thimble Shoal Channel – West, began in December 2019, 18 months ahead of schedule,” wrote the members of Congress. “The next steps are to complete the Design during Construction (DDC) on the remaining elements and prepare the next segment for award and construction. In order to maintain this schedule, the project requires a New Start designation and $2.5 million for construction in the 2020 Work Plan as well as $49.4 million in the President’s 2021 budget request.”

The Port of Virginia is an important commercial and economic engine for the Commonwealth, generating more than $78 million annually. In their letter to OMB, the members of Congress reiterated that the funding is critical to ensure timely completion of a two-way traffic channel to better accommodate commercial ships and vessels deploying from Naval Station Norfolk.

“As you know, one lane traffic is not sustainable at the Port of Virginia as the size of commercial vessels continues to grow. One lane traffic creates uncertainty and inefficiency for businesses and their supply chains. Additionally, as home to the world’s largest naval base – Naval Station Norfolk – the deepening and widening of Norfolk Harbor will support the critical functions of the U.S. Navy. The completion of this project will ensure the continued safe and timely passage of larger commercial and military vessels through Norfolk Harbor,” they continued. “The rapid growth of larger vessels entering maritime trade makes it essential that this project proceed as quickly as possible. The public and private non-federal interests have invested billions of dollars on land-side infrastructure and are prepared to provide their cost share to complete this crucial navigation project in a timely manner.”

In December, Sens. Warner and Kaine voted in favor of the government funding bill that included $2.5 million for the Norfolk Harbor Widening and Deepening project and critical language authorizing six Army Corps New Starts. The Army Corps will announce which projects will receive New Start designations in their Work Plan, which must be released no later than 60 days after the Energy and Water appropriations bill was signed into law.

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