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Port of Oswego, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to sign harbor deepening project agreement

Seawaymax Class freighters, like the Baie St. Paul, pictured, will be able to do business at the Port of Oswego following the deepening of the harbor to accommodate these vessels with a draft of 27 feet. The maximum vessel depth that the harbor can accommodate at present is 25 feet.

Posted on September 13, 2022

The Port of Oswego Authority (POA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) on Tuesday will sign a $600,000 agreement to deepen the port’s harbor, transform its capabilities, and ignite new growth, said William Scriber, executive director.

New York State recently awarded $300,000 to the Port of Oswego, and the USACE will contribute an additional $300,000 toward a joint feasibility study to deepen the harbor, Scriber said. This is the first phase in a three-step process that will lead to the design and construction of a deeper harbor.

To commemorate this agreement, POA board chair Francis Enwright and representatives of the port will join with Lt. Col. Colby Krug, USACE Buffalo District commander, at 1:30 p.m. Sept. 13 on the port’s east dock. They will sign the poster that will commemorate the project partnership and its mission to “collaborate to deepen the federal navigation channel within Oswego Harbor, to maintain a strong national economy and adapt to future Great Lakes Navigation System needs.”

“After this has been discussed for more than 25 years, deepening the harbor and opening up our port for greater investment and growth will finally be a reality,” Scriber said. “For the past three years, I’ve worked with the New York State Department of Transportation, our local congressional delegation, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to convince them that there is a federal interest in deepening our harbor. This joint feasibility project is the important step before taking action.

“I’ve also worked in cooperation with our commercial neighbors, Lehigh, W.T. Oswego and Lafarge to earn their support for this project. This has also led to numerous conversations with vendors to bring business here to Oswego and to our region. In short, our Port is on track to grow and thrive at a level that it hasn’t seen in many decades, and I’m extremely proud of how my team has pulled together to make this happen.

“By deepening the harbor, we’ll be able to accommodate Seawaymax Class freighters, which are 740 feet long, 78 feet wide and have a draft of 27 feet. These vessels are the maximum size that can fit through the canal locks of the St. Lawrence Seaway, linking the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean,” Scriber continued.

“Improving the harbor depth will open us up to larger vessels, and we’ll increase business for both the Port and other commercial business neighbors, such as Anderson Grain. We conservatively estimate that we’ll see at least a 100,000-ton increase and will ultimately reach and surpass our previous levels.”

According to the USACE, in addition to accommodating larger vessels, other benefits to deepening the harbor include the retention and sustainability of existing Port inbound and outbound commodities like grain and potash; expanding the capabilities of the Port as the only New York deep draft port on Lake Ontario; the continued support of the wind energy industry with an enhanced ability to accept wind turbine components to the region; increases in Port-related economic activity and job creation; increasing annual commodity and freight tonnages with additional commodity distributors and users located near the Port; and enabling smooth truck and rail connections at the Port to accommodate increased movement of commodities and freight.

“And there’s more good news,” Scriber said. “In addition to our $15 million investment to become a major grain export facility once again, we have been successful in advocating with the current federal administration for the completion of the west breakwall and repair of the Oswego lighthouse foundation, garnering $5.6 million, which will benefit all of the Oswego harbor.

“The U.S. Department of Transportation has designated us — one of only 32 in the United States — as a Marine Highway. This designation makes the Port of Oswego a key logistics partner in the Great Lakes shipping industry. We are the first deep draft harbor on the Great Lakes and the only New York State port on Lake Ontario that can unload international tonnage without passing through the Welland Canal in Ontario, Canada (which connects Lake Ontario and Lake Erie) or being delivered at an ocean coastal port. With the supply chain issues we’re seeing right now, this could potentially provide an outlet for coastal harbor congestion in the future as navigation patterns change,” Scriber said.

The Port of Oswego’s strategic location at the crossroads of the northeastern North American shipping market puts it less than 350 miles from 60 million people. As one of the most productive ports in North America, the port supports 209 local jobs, $26.7 million in economic activity, and $13.8 million in personal income and local consumption expenditures, Scriber said.

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