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By CAROL COMEGNO
The Army Corps of Engineers has awarded an $800,000 dredging contract for the Delaware River so the battleship USS New Jersey can be moved to its final berth as a museum.
Rep. James Saxton, R-N.J., who worked with New Jersey's legislative delegation to secure federal funding, announced the contract award Monday - the last major hurdle that had to be overcome in order for the historic battleship to open to the public by Labor Day weekend.
The Home Port alliance, a nonprofit South Jersey coalition of government, labor and business leaders, is converting the ship into a museum and building landside facilities as part of a project that ultimately will cost more than $22 million.
"With this dredging hurdle behind us, we are looking real good for a Labor Day weekend opening,'' said Joseph Balzano, chairman of the alliance's construction committee.
Richard Chlan, spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers in Philadelphia, said he expects the work by Norfolk Dredging Co. of Chesapeake, Va., to start by late this month or early July. It must be completed by Aug. 1.
The corps must dredge an access channel three to five feet deeper - to 36 feet - so the ship can navigate past the Beckett Street Terminal and into its new $10 million, T- shaped pier south of the New Jersey State Aquarium.