By AMANDA PURCELL
State Senator Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, secured $200,000 as part of a special state grant to fund a dredging project at the Port of Ogdensburg, her office said in a news release Wednesday.
“We started the project a couple of years ago and we have since kept the local officials, including Senator Ritchie, up to date,” said Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority Executive Director Wade A. Davis. “We are very grateful for Senator Ritchie for taking the initiative and guaranteeing this funding. This is a key project that will create jobs at the port for the long term.”
Ultimately, the project will decrease drop-off times for cargo, Mr. Davis said.
Because of a buildup of silt along the city port’s 1,200-foot dock, freighters have to deliver their cargo in piecemeal, Mr. Davis said.
According to a previous Army Corps of Engineers report, shippers stand to see an $89,000 to $302,000 hike in transportation costs because decreasing channel depth would force ships to carry lighter loads.
“It makes the port much more competitive as a result for bulk commodities — whether it is for agriculture or salt for municipalities,” Mr. Davis said.
He said the dredging project could result in an increase in the number of ships using the city’s port, but declined to speculate by how much.
In addition to jobs created by the dredging and silt removal project, the port itself supports 70 jobs and contributes an estimated $5 million to the local economy each year.
The city’s port was last dredged in 1984, and the rising river bottom from accumulated silt endangers the OBPA’s recently expanded efforts to attract new business and create more local jobs.
“Dredging Ogdensburg’s harbor is vital to our efforts to bring new ships, new jobs and new business to the north country,” OBPA Board of Directors Chairman Samuel J. LaMacchia.
The Army Corps of Engineers and OBPA in 2013 signed a cost-sharing agreement for a study examining the feasibility of the dredging project. The Corps of Engineers is expected to make its recommendations soon.
It is expected that the bulk of the dredging costs will be covered by the Corps of Engineers.
OBPA officials said last year that when completed, the dredging will allow two ships to dock simultaneously at the port.