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Dredging operation on the Genessee River (in 2008). Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/45082883@N00/2716683773">Michael Sauers</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Dredging operation on the Genessee River (in 2008). Photo: Michael Sauers, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Dredging Upstate waterways and ports

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Shipping lanes and ports along the Great Lakes are big contributors to the economies of upstate cities. Federal funding to remove sediment and keep these shipping lanes open is available, but funds are limited. One company has taken matters into their own hands in western New York.

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Reported by

Kate O'Connell
Reporter, The Innovation Trail

For more than two-and-a-half years the Essroc cement company has been unable to bring their product into the port of Rochester in bulk, because a buildup of river sediment prevented their cargo ship from docking.

That changed on Monday with the return of the Stephen B. Roman cargo freighter. It’s arrival marked the reopening of the channel, funded by a $1.5 million public-private partnership.

Stephen Murch of Essroc says it’s important for businesses across the upstate region, to keep the waterways open.

“The marine mode of transportation is the most cost effective mode, and to be able to bring cement in in bulk as we do here, in large amounts, keeps the cost a very competitive cost for cement for all the projects that happen within Rochester and the region as well.”

Under the partnership with the City of Rochester and the Army Corp of Engineers, 200,000 cubic yards of sediment was dredged from the Genesee River. That’s equivalent to roughly 10,000 truckloads.

Mike Asquith is the US Army Corp of Engineers Dredging Project Manager in Western New York.

He says the economic benefits of dredging equates to tens of millions of dollars every year, but freeing up federal funding can be an issue.

“It’s a process we go through every single year on the Great Lakes. The Federal Government has a limited amount of funds that they can use for dredging and we try to go through a process and make sure the country gets the biggest bang for its buck.”

Asquith says small tonnage ports like Rochester’s often miss out on funding which tends to be funneled towards bigger ports.

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter announced in May that she’s secured funding for a new round of dredging in Rochester in 2014, and Essroc’s Stephen Murch says they hope the federal government will pick up the tab from now on.

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