Alert 665: Delaware denies permit for Delaware River “Main Channel Deepening”

(Code Orange bad air pollution alert for Saturday, July 25, 2009)
This is a major event in one of the longest-running environmental controversies in the region.  A recommendation from a Delaware DNREC hearing officer to deny a Delaware permit to the U.S Army Corps of Engineers had been sitting since 2003.  This is good news for many people who have worked for many years to protect the Delaware River.  Green Delaware has always opposed the dredging project.

But, it’s not necessarily, or even probably, the end of the project.  DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara’s letter to the Army Corps states:

I take this action without prejudice to any future permit application….

and “Should the USACOE choose to submit a new permit application, I pledge that my agency will conduct a thorough scientific review and that the permitting process will be efficient, timely and transparent.

The Corps has also said in the past that it may dispute the need for permits from Delaware at all.  Richard Pearsall of the Corps’ Philadelphia District told us “We are studying the letter we got today [from Delaware].”  Since the Corps is unlikely to give up, its two most probable actions are to reapply, or to challenge Delaware’s jurisdiction.

Governor Markell’s office issued the following press release:

Markell Supports DNREC Decision to Deny Permit Application
to Deepen the Main Channel of the Delaware River and Bay

DOVER – Gov. Jack Markell released the following statement Friday in response to the ruling by Secretary of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Collin O’Mara to deny the permit application from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to deepen the main navigational channel of the Delaware River and Bay.
“The decision to award a permit to dredge the Delaware River should be based on sound science and a review of the most current information available,” Markell said. “At the same time, we also need to evaluate the opportunity to create jobs and grow Delaware’s economy. This permit request began eight years ago and the information currently before the Department is outdated and incomplete.”

Code Orange Air Quality Action Day

Saturday, July 25th is forecasted to be Code Orange for ground-level ozone.

Calm morning winds will allow pollutants and their precursors to accumulate.  Southwesterly winds will develop by mid-day and high concentrations of ozone will develop along the I-95 Corridor.  With a lower risk of thunderstorms Saturday, we expect ozone concentrations to reach the Code Orange range late in the day.  Particle concentrations will rise but remain within the moderate range.

A Code Orange air quality forecast, whether for ozone or PM, is a level of pollution that can be unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as young children, the elderly, and those with heart and/or respiratory conditions.

Alan Muller

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