By CAROL COMEGNO
Opposition to a proposed ferry pier in front of the USS New Jersey has led officials with the Delaware River Port Authority to explore other sites.
The DRPA action came this week after protests from Camden County freeholders and officials of the Battleship New Jersey Memorial and Museum, which recently opened on the Camden Waterfront.
Opponents raised aesthetic and safety concerns about locating the new pier south of a ferry pier at the New Jersey State Aquarium and in front of the historic ship.
"I think that is a prudent step on their part. They need to re-examine this," said Freeholder Laurelle Cummings, county liaison to the parks department, which operates the nearby Wiggins Park Marina.
The Home Port Alliance, which operates the battleship museum, spent millions of dollars in county and DRPA money to build a pier for the ship where there would be no obstructions to the view.
DRPA spokesman Joseph Diemer said bids were not accepted on Thursday for the Memorial Pier Ferry Terminal as had been planned so the DRPA can explore possible alternative sites.
"We don't know that there are any, but if there are, we would like more time to study them," he said.
He said DRPA officials still believe the proposed location would not obstruct the sight line for "99 percent of people who approach the vessel."
The new pier would have two operating ferries and would be part of the current RiverLink ferry operation, which reopens for the season at its aquarium location today. It serves as a tourist ferry, shuttling passengers between Penn's Landing in Philadelphia and Camden Waterfront attractions.
The proposed pier would be sandwiched between the marina entrance and the battleship's underwater bow mooring near the Tweeter Center, obscuring the view of the battleship.
Cummings said the "common sense" solution for the DRPA is to upgrade the current ferry pier.
The county granted the DRPA riparian rights to develop much of the waterfront in Camden, but an agreement between the two gives the county the right to review any proposed location and design of the pier.
Camden County Freeholder-Director Jeffrey Nash, whose appointment to the DRPA was confirmed Thursday by the Senate, said he would like to sit down with DRPA staff and find a better alternative.
State Sen. John Matheussen, R-Gloucester, a co-chairman of the alliance, said he is encouraged to hear that the port authority is willing to reconsider the issue.
The Army Corps of Engineers has extended the review period on the DRPA's pier permit application until April 17, at the request of the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Bill Jenkins, environmental engineer for the corps in Philadelphia, said any public agency can submit comments on the application to the corps before the deadline.