Over 3,000 Illegally-Dumped Tires in Schuylkill River Pose Challenges for Army Corps’ Dredging Efforts
Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River, known for its iconic boathouses and regatta racecourse, faces a setback as the discovery of over 3,000 illegally dumped tires threatens to hamper the ongoing dredging project. Federal authorities, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, are grappling with the unexpected obstacle, potentially delaying the restoration of the river crucial for rowing clubs.
The dredging initiative, spearheaded by the Army Corps and its contractor Dredgit, aims to clear the Schuylkill River of sediment, enhancing the water quality for recreational activities such as rowing. The first phase, completed a year ago, successfully removed 28,000 cubic yards of sediment from the river in front of the iconic boathouses.
However, the second phase, targeting the 2,000-meter National Race Course upriver, encountered a surprising challenge as workers discovered thousands of tires submerged in the river. Among the tires retrieved were large tractor and truck tires, impeding the dredging process.
Steve Rochette, spokesperson for the Army Corps, highlighted the ongoing tire retrieval as a significant hurdle, stating that the issue has persisted across multiple areas along the Race Course. This has disrupted the originally planned dredging operations, and the Army Corps is yet to finalize its path forward.
The Schuylkill Navy, an association of amateur rowing clubs advocating for the dredging, has long expressed concerns about silt buildup affecting the riverbed’s evenness. The regatta racecourse’s restoration is crucial for hosting rowing and paddling events that define Philadelphia’s recreational and cultural landscape.
Bonnie Mueller, the commodore of the Schuylkill Navy, expressed anticipation for the cleanup and the restoration of uniform, usable lanes for upcoming regattas. However, concerns linger regarding the potential impact of the cleanup on the overall restoration of the racecourse.
This isn’t the first hurdle for the dredging project. The initial contractor halted work in November 2020, citing excessive debris and seeking additional funds. Subsequently, the Army Corps had to secure a new contractor, allocating additional millions from the federal government to recommence the project.
The Schuylkill Navy had initially hoped for the dredging to be completed before scheduled regattas this month. However, the discovery of the illegally dumped tires adds uncertainty, with hopes now pinned on completing the project by the end of next month. The fear of potential budget overruns or project imperilment looms as the Army Corps navigates a path forward amid the unexpected challenges posed by the submerged tires.