Dredging Up the Future

The News Journal reported the following on April 3rd:

“Delaware River dredging in doubt, GAO says”

The GAO, of course, is the Government Accountability Office, probably the only federal agency whose pronouncements can be relied upon these days. Here’s how some of the story reads.

“The $ 300 million Delaware River dredging project, which is already under way, could be a colossal waste of money, according to a report released Friday by the Government Accountability Office.

“The report, requested by the local members of Congress, said Army Corps of Engineers cost and benefit studies failed to account for important changes in river industries and shipping markets, including some that could dramatically erode earlier financial forecasts.

“Major factors needing more study, the GAO said, include the effect of a dramatic downturn in crude oil imports along the Delaware River and unproven assumptions about likely shifts in container ship traffic if the channel is deepened to 45 feet from its current 40-foot depth.

“‘Because of these and other omissions, decision-makers do not have sufficient updated information to judge the extent to which the market and industry changes would affect the project’s net benefits,’ the agency concluded. The GAO is the investigative and auditing arm of Congress.

“The agency’s findings were less scathing than a 2002 declaration that corps benefit forecasts were badly bloated by ‘miscalculations, invalid assumptions and outdated information.’

“Members of New Jersey’s congressional delegation requested the GAO study, led by Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, who chairs a Commerce Committee panel responsible for the issue.

“Members of Delaware’s delegation could not be reached for comment Friday. In the past all have shown support of the review by the GAO.

“The report cited downturns in crude oil and steel imports as factors unaccounted for in the corps’ claims that the project will yield more economic benefits than it would cost taxpayers.

“Project designers also failed to consider changes in shipping trade routes that account for all the container cargo benefits expected from the project …”

[Remember what Maya van Rossum, the leader of Delaware Riverkeeper Network said about this dredging nonsense back in January of 2006? “Anytime someone has taken a truly objective look or review of this project, in every instance they come out against it. That’s why I can tell you that those who are supporting this project either don’t know what they’re talking about or they’re lying.”]