The Northwest Seaport Alliance (a partnership between the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) recently took the first step toward potentially deepening the Port of Tacoma’s Blair and Sitcum waterways to allow access to even larger ships.

Image courtesy of the Northwest Seaport Alliance.

The two organizations signed an agreement this week to share the costs of a feasibility study that will investigate navigation improvement alternatives, one of which is harbor deepening.

“The Port of Tacoma is a rapidly expanding major port,” USACE Seattle District Commander Col. Mark Geraldi said in a statement. “Deepening the Blair and Sitcum waterways may result in cost and time savings, potentially lowering project operations and maintenance costs, as well as potentially allowing for the removal of draft restrictions for certain vessels. This general investigation feasibility study will determine whether there is a federal interest in participating in modifying the existing waterways.”

After a similar study was completed, the Port of Seattle, recommendations were made to deepen the port’s East and West Waterways to 57 feet. That project was approved by the USACE and is currently awaiting congressional authorization.

The Tacoma harbor currently measures approximately 51 feet MLLW (mean lower low water), a measurement that is equal to the average height of the lowest tide recorded every day during a 19-year period.

“With the signing of these documents today, we begin this project to deepen the South Harbor as part of our effort to develop what will be one of the deepest gateways in the nation,” NWSA CEO John Wolfe said in a statement. “We truly value our partnership with the Army Corps. It is vital for building a stronger trade gateway and keeping ship calls and the jobs they support in the Pacific Northwest and in the U.S.”