Virginia Delegation Urges Biden Administration to Support Norfolk Harbor Project in FY23 Budget Request
Feb 10 2022
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) led the entire Virginia Congressional Delegation in requesting that the Biden administration continue its support of the Norfolk Harbor Widening and Deepening project by including at least $76.9 million in federal funding for the project in President Biden’s FY23 budget request.
In a letter to President Biden, the members stressed the importance of securing these funds in FY23 to ensure that the Norfolk Harbor Widening and Deepening project remains on schedule to be completed by early 2025. This critical project is expected to expand Norfolk Harbor’s shipping channels and ensure that larger commercial and military vessels can continue to pass through Norfolk Harbor safely, especially in light of the rapid growth of vessels entering maritime trade.
“Allocating the remaining $76.9 million of the Federal share to Norfolk Harbor in Fiscal Year 2023 is essential to keep this nationally significant project on track for completion by early 2025 and allow the Norfolk District to award the Inner Harbor segment in a timely manner,” the lawmakers wrote.
“The Port of Virginia is one of the Commonwealth’s most powerful economic engines. On an annual basis, the Port is responsible for more than 400,000 jobs and $100 billion in spending across our Commonwealth and generates more than eight percent of our Gross State Product. However, the Port’s true reach extends throughout the Mid-Atlantic and into the Midwest and Ohio Valley. The Port maintains a balanced portfolio of container and bulk trade, and it serves a robust rail market to and from the American farmers and manufacturers throughout the Midwest and Ohio Valley,” they continued.
The Norfolk Harbor project was included in President Biden’s FY22 budget request as a construction New Start. The proposed funds for the project were subsequently included in the FY22 House and Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee spending bills that are currently pending before Congress.
Last year, Sen. Warner led the Virginia Congressional Delegation in a letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) requesting a New Start designation for the project in the USACE Fiscal Year 2021 Work Plan – a request that was also made in 2020. In December, Sen. Warner led members of the Virginia Congressional Delegation in requesting funding for Norfolk Harbor through the resources made available to USACE by the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which was granted by USACE on January 19, 2022. In July 2021, Sen. Kaine advocated for the project to Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Michael Connor as part of his nomination hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Furthermore, in 2018, Sens. Warner and Kaine successfully fought for the inclusion of the Norfolk Harbor Widening and Deepening project, in addition to other coastal resiliency programs, in the bipartisan Water Resources Development Act.
In addition to Sen. Warner, the letter was signed by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and U.S. Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA), Rob Wittman (R-VA), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Morgan Griffith (R-VA), Don Beyer (D-VA), A. Donald McEachin (D-VA), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), Elaine Luria (D-VA), Ben Cline (R-VA), Jennifer Wexton (D-VA), and Bob Good (R-VA).
Full text of the letter is here and below.
Dear President Biden:
As representatives from the Commonwealth of Virginia, home to the Port of Virginia – the fifth largest and fastest growing port in the nation – we write today concerning the Norfolk Harbor and Channels Widening and Deepening project and your FY23 budget request. We respectfully request that you include $76.9 million in funding for the Norfolk Harbor project in your FY23 budget request to ensure this nationally significant project continues to move forward on schedule.
The Port of Virginia is one of the Commonwealth’s most powerful economic engines. On an annual basis, the Port is responsible for more than 400,000 jobs and $100 billion in spending across our Commonwealth and generates more than eight percent of our Gross State Product. However, the Port’s true reach extends throughout the Mid-Atlantic and into the Midwest and Ohio Valley. The Port maintains a balanced portfolio of container and bulk trade, and it serves a robust rail market to and from the American farmers and manufacturers throughout the Midwest and Ohio Valley.
The deepening and widening of Norfolk Harbor is essential to continue safe and timely passage of ever-increasing commercial and military vessels through the harbor. Deepening Norfolk Harbor to 55 feet from its current 50 feet depth and widening Thimble Shoal Channel to 1,400 feet will enable safe, two-way traffic in and out of the harbor and will help prevent delays to commercial and military vessels – a necessity in today’s global trading landscape. Expanding Norfolk Harbor to allow for two-way traffic will also help prevent backlogs of commercial vessels that could cause costly delays and supply chain disruptions that are currently affecting some port facilities across the U.S.
We are pleased that the Norfolk Harbor project recently received a New Start designation and an initial tranche of Federal funding that will allow the Port and USACE to initiate a Project Partnership Agreement. As the Fiscal Year 2022 appropriations process continues, the additional $83.7 million, which was originally included in the President’s FY22 Budget request and has been carried forward in both the House and Senate’s Fiscal Year 2022 Energy and Water Appropriations bills, will allow the Norfolk District to advertise the Atlantic Ocean Channel segment this summer.
The Commonwealth of Virginia provided full funding of $20 million for Preconstruction Engineering and Design and $330 million for construction in its FY19-20 biennial budget. The deepening of Thimble Shoal Channel – West as well as the deepening and widening of Thimble Shoal Channel – East are both currently under construction with scheduled completion by August 2022. Both contracts are funded and administered by the Port and are in full compliance with Federal standards under a Memorandum of Understanding with USACE in July 2017. Further, the construction work is eligible as Work-In-Kind once a Project Partnership Agreement is signed, which may happen as soon as this month now that Federal funds have been received.
However, a recent Army Corps cost estimate update and approval of the previously authorized widening of Thimble Shoal Channel – West as a cost-shared element of the project have increased the projected Federal share of the project to $235.9 million. Allocating the remaining $76.9 million of the Federal share to Norfolk Harbor in Fiscal Year 2023 is essential to keep this nationally significant project on track for completion by early 2025 and allow the Norfolk District to award the Inner Harbor segment in a timely manner
The Port of Virginia is a commercial and economic engine for the United States and continues to play an integral role in American foreign and domestic commerce and trade. Completion of this project will allow the Port to remain a prominent economic hub for the nation and a key player in domestic and international trade by generating more than $3.9 billion in net national economic development benefits.
Thank you for your consideration. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions regarding this request. We look forward to continue working with you to support this critical project for Virginia and our nation’s ports