By CAROL COMEGNO
A fast-track effort to build a pier for the battleship New
Jersey by September 2001 could be delayed by a harsh
winter, design changes or next spring's shad-spawning
In addition, say officials of the Home Port Alliance, the
project must find an estimated $600,000 to $750,000 for
dredging that originally was to be done and financed by the
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Officials on Monday downplayed the severity of potential
problems facing the planned pier.
The project to build a $5 million, T-shaped pier on the
city's Waterfront is currently on schedule, said
construction committee chairman Joseph Balzano.
"We are about to approve a final design from Hudson
Engineers and hope to be able to award the construction
contract by January," he said.
Rep. Rob Andrews, D-N.J., said he is confident federal
money will be forthcoming to pay for dredging.
The situation is "completely under control," said
Andrews. "Sometimes it takes time to get money out of the
federal pipeline and there is some question as to cost, but
I foresee no difficulty."
Still, officials said several factors could affect the
pace of construction.
"A bad winter alone could make it difficult to achieve our
target opening," said retired Rear Admiral Thomas
Seigenthaler, alliance executive director.
Another problem is the three-month shad season, starting
March 15, when environmental rules prohibit pile-driving
operations in the Delaware River.
Seigenthaler said the alliance also plans to change the
original pier design submitted to the Navy. The revisions
would require approvals from several government bodies.
The alliance plans to widen the access walkway to the ship
from 30 feet to 45 feet, to accommodate emergency vehicles.
The Camden Fire Department requested the change for its
pumper trucks and other rescue equipment, city battalion
fire chief Paul Price said Monday.
"Our major concern is if there were a fire on board, we
would have to have a 30-foot clearance to get on and off to
the pier," he said. Under the original design, any benches
or other objects along the walkway "would have reduced the
clearance to less than 30 feet, which is not acceptable."
Also, the dock alongside the ship - originally 600 feet
long - would be shortened to 400 to 450 feet.
In part, this is a financial consideration in order to
provide funds to widen the other section, board officials
have said. It also would give a less obstructed view of the
887-foot ship from the shore.
The Navy would have to approve any changes in the pier
design as well as changes in other aspects of the
battleship project, said a Navy spokesman in Washington, D.
The alliance also would need amendments to permits from
the Army Corps and state Department of Environmental
As part of the project, a channel must be dredged to give
the battleship access to the pier near the E-Centre. The
ship now is undergoing repairs at the Broadway Terminal in
Alliance officials initially believed the Army Corps would
fund and perform the dredging under terms of federal
legislation involving the South Jersey Port Corp. in
But Army Corps spokesman Richard Chlan in Philadelphia
said the 1999 Water Resources Development Act only
authorizes the environmental study for such a project. It
does not authorize the Army Corps to perform the dredging
and it provides no money for the work.
The alliance, which has a dredging permit from the Army
Corps, still must obtain a state-approved disposal site for
the river material, Chlan said.
The alliance board is pushing for the September 2001
opening date in order to give the public access to the ship
as soon as possible and also to accommodate Gov. Christie
Whitman. The governor, who has supported the project, would
like to see the ship at least partially open before she
leaves office at the end of next year.
The alliance initially plans to open only the battleship's
main deck as well as the exterior and interior sections of
the upper decks, including the bridge and captain's
quarters. It hopes eventually to add at least one tour of
lower decks areas like the engine rooms or general crew