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Following Shaheen-led Effort, Army Corps Approves Funding for Portsmouth Navigation Project

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) issued the following statements in response to the Army Corps of Engineers’ (The Corps) release of their Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Work Plan, which includes $18,232,000 for the Portsmouth Harbor and Piscataqua River Navigation Improvement Project.


“The Piscataqua River’s narrow turning basin has long been a challenge threatening the safety of ships and tugboats moving goods in and out of the Portsmouth Harbor, which makes the announcement of this expansion very welcome news. I’m thrilled the Corps heeded our calls in Congress to make this a priority,” said Senator Shaheen. “Including this project in the Corps’ Fiscal Year 2021 Work Plan will help ensure the economic vitality of the port and the surrounding communities. I’ll continue to work across the aisle with local and federal partners to ensure the expansion of the turning basin is completed in a timely, efficient manner.”


“The narrow turning basin in the Piscataqua River poses an urgent safety concern for ships navigating Portsmouth Harbor,” Senator Hassan said. “I was glad to work with the New Hampshire Congressional Delegation to prioritize funding to widen the basin and improve navigational safety for the many ships and tugboats that use this port to deliver and receive goods. I will continue working with the delegation to improve the navigational functionality of our waterways, which are essential to the businesses and communities on our Seacoast.”


The Portsmouth Harbor and Piscataqua River Navigation Improvement Project would widen the uppermost turning basin of the Piscataqua River from 800 feet to 1,200 feet, which would improve navigation safety. Due to its current narrow width, vessels navigating the river – including liquefied petroleum gas tankers and other bulk shippers – face significant safety risks and transit restrictions. Shaheen first secured authorization for the Portsmouth Harbor and Piscataqua River Navigation Improvement Project as part of the 2016 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). Since then, Shaheen and Hassan have worked with the rest of the New Hampshire congressional delegation to prioritize the project, specifically including language in the 2018 WRDA and 2020 WRDA directing the Corps to expedite the project. During a hearing last year before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Shaheen received an assurance from James McPherson, the nominee to be the Under Secretary of the Army, that her request to prioritize critical water infrastructure projects at Rye and Portsmouth Harbors would be fulfilled. In a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing last Spring, Shaheen received assurance from R.D. James, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, that this project would be a priority for the Corps. Government funding legislation signed into law last month included language supported by Shaheen and Hassan directing the Secretary of the Army to provide a status update on the completion of the project after the WRDA of 2018 included specific language urging the Corps to expedite it.


As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Shaheen helped procure and Hassan supported nearly $8 billion for the Corps to complete necessary infrastructure projects in New Hampshire and across the country in FY 2021 funding legislation that the President recently signed into law. This is $72.1 million above last year’s funding level. In February, the Corps released their FY 2020 Work Plan, which provided $4 million to complete dredging work at Rye Harbor – a direct result of Shaheen and Hassan’s legislative efforts to secure the funding and support needed for the project. This followed Shaheen and Hassan’s successful efforts to address the need for emergency dredging at Hampton-Seabrook Harbor by directing the Corps to prioritize off-cycle, emergency dredging in its Work Plans. Following calls from Shaheen and Hassan, the Corps included $4.6 million in their 2019 Work Plan to dredge the harbor, which has since been completed.