January 16, 2020

Hassan, NH Delegation Receive Assurances From Army Nominee on Rye and Portsmouth Harbors

(Washington, DC) –Yesterday, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) led a letter with U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Representatives Annie Kuster (NH-02) and Chris Pappas (NH-01) to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works R. D. James, requesting that two critical water infrastructure projects – the Rye Harbor Maintenance Dredging Project and the Portsmouth Harbor and Piscataqua River Navigation Improvement Project – be prioritized in the Army Corps of Engineers’ (Corps) fiscal year (FY) 2020 Work Plan. The two agencies develop an annual work plan to address high-need projects following the implementation of government funding legislation.

The delegation wrote, “In the Granite State and the surrounding region, Rye Harbor and Portsmouth Harbor serve a tremendous value, supporting local businesses, creating jobs and ensuring public safety. However, the demand for maintenance at both of these waterways has disrupted their usability and daily operations.”

Since last being dredged in 1990, Rye Harbor has experienced significant shoaling, threatening the regional economy and public safety. Further delays to the dredging project could potentially cause the harbor to become nonfunctional.

Due to the narrow width of the uppermost turning basin on the Piscataqua River, vessels navigating the river, including liquefied petroleum gas tankers and other bulk shippers, face significant safety risks and transit restrictions, which adds additional cost to cargo shipped into the ports. The Portsmouth Harbor and Piscataqua River Navigation Improvement Project would widen the turning basin from 800 feet to 1,200 feet, which would improve navigation safety and have a beneficial effect to the economy of New Hampshire and the surrounding region.

The delegation concluded, “As your offices work to develop the FY 2020 Corps Work Plan, we respectfully request that you give all possible consideration to expediting the maintenance of Rye Harbor, as well as the expansion of the uppermost turning basin on the Piscataqua River. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.”

The delegation’s letter can be read in full here.

In a hearing today, Senator Shaheen received an assurance from the nominee to be the Under Secretary of the Army, James McPherson, that her request to prioritize critical water infrastructure projects at Rye and Portsmouth Harbors would be fulfilled, if confirmed. In response to Senator Shaheen’s questioning, McPherson informed the Committee he had already relayed Senator Shaheen’s request to senior leadership at the Army Corps of Engineers.

That exchange can be viewed here.