Pennsylvania is pressing another damaging project for the Delaware River, seemingly using its friendly contacts at the Army Corps to press forward a special review for the project that will modify in a way that relaxes environmental review and oversight. The Delaware Riverkeeper Network is very concerned about the proposed Southport development project and what appears to be an evolving abuse of process and politics.
The Southport Development project involves the filling in of 12.28 acres of open water (.2 of which is emergent wetlands, 1.08 acres of which is shallow water habitat, and 3.62 of which is deep water habitat); 3.75 acres of nontidal wetlands; .73 acres of a tidal drainage area; filling in an unspecified amount of floodplain lands with 3 to 4 feet of fill in order to raise the area to above the 100-year floodplain (in fact to raise it to the 200 year floodplain); dredging a 35-acre area within the River to a 40+2 foot depth; impacts to approximately 4600 linear ft of existing shoreline; the permanent loss of 1.08 acres of submerged aquatic vegetation; and having a 116 acre development footprint which will necessarily be on riverside lands and result in the loss of potential terrestrial habitat. The project is being postured as a method for disposing of spoils from the Army Corps’ Delaware deepening proposal. And that explains why the push by PA and the apparent interest of the Army Corps to skew the review and public process to make approval for the project easier.
Our review of the files demonstrates that the Army Corps is already supporting efforts to truncate the environmental review process that should be taking place around this proposal.
The Delaware Riverkeeper Network is urging the Environmental Protection Agency to step in and take the reigns. But they are failing to act. In fact, documents on the record show us that rather than exercising any oversight they are instead seeking to work in collusion. In email from EPA officials to Army Corps officials it is said: “In light of the rash of activity recently from the riverkeeper regarding the Southport project, we are hoping to set up a meeting with you guys to make sure we are on the same page.”
The Army Corps and PADEP have both issued public notices that they are considering permitting for the project. The Delaware Riverkeeper Network has submitted extensive public comment.