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South Jersey

Wednesday, February 7, 2001

New `Big J' pier plan wins permits

Courier-Post Staff

The Home Port Alliance's new design of a pier for the USS New Jersey has received necessary state and federal permits. But more governmental approvals are needed before construction can begin.

The state Department of of of of Environmental Protection approved changes Monday in the pier size and type of moorings by amending a previous water development permit for the battleship project, said DEP spokeswoman Sharon Southard.

Richard Chlan, spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers in Philadelphia, confirmed this week that the Corps also issued a new construction permit to the alliance because of the major pier changes.

The state has not yet granted a dredging permit nor a critical exemption to the ban on pier construction during the spring spawning season for shad between March 15 and June 30.

"They will have to provide us more details and justification as to why pile driving cannot wait until June 30," said Southard.

The nonprofit alliance hopes to start construction of the $6 million to $7 million pier before March 15. It wants to open the ship to the public by Sept. 2, but there is no legal requirement for it to open by that date.

In order to meet the opening date, the pier must be ready in August. The historic ship can then be moved to the pier from its temporary berth at the Broadway Terminal in South Camden, where it is undergoing a $7 million restoration.

The base of the T-shaped battleship pier will jut into the Delaware River behind the E-Centre entertainment complex, adjacent to Wiggins Park. The alliance has changed the design by widening the walkway out to the pier from 30 feet to 45 feet, partly at the request of the city fire department for better access for emergency vehicles. It also shortened the dock from 600 feet to 400 feet.

Southard said dredging is required to get the ship into the new pier area.

Rep. Rob Andrews, D-N.J., and Rep. Jim Saxton, R-N.J., said they met with Army Corps officials in Washington last week to discuss the possibility of the Corps undertaking the dredging.

"There are some bureaucratic hurdles we have to jump over to free up the money from the maintenance fund of the Army Corps, but we are optimistic it will happen," Andrews said.

Chlan said the Philadelphia office has no money for that project, which would require a study to determine if it is environmentally safe and economically sound.

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