Coons gets funding for Dover base, Delaware River project into bill

WASHINGTON — Dover Air Force Base and a project to deepen the Delaware River received major boosts Thursday with funding for both included in spending bills headed to debate by the U.S. Senate.

U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., announced Thursday that the Appropriations Committee approved $80 million for Dover Air Force Base in the Military Construction/Veterans Affairs and $33 million for the Delaware River deepening project in the Energy and Water Development appropriations bills.

Sen. Chris Coons

Sen. Chris Coons

Both bills need to be approved by the full Senate and House.

Sen. Coons is the first Delaware senator in more than four decades to serve on the Appropriations Committee, the largest committee in the U.S. Senate. It writes the legislation that allocates federal funds to the numerous government agencies, departments and organizations on an annual basis.

“When I was first elected to represent Delaware in the Senate, I made it a priority to gain a seat on the important Appropriations Committee to make sure Delaware’s needs and priorities are addressed in our federal spending bills like this one,” said Sen. Coons.

“I’m thrilled this bill includes funding for critical Delaware priorities,” he said. “It will support the Delaware River deepening project, a smart investment that will mean new jobs and new business for the Port of Wilmington and the Delaware Valley, and Dover Air Force Base to improve both the functions of the base and the quality of living of families stationed at the facility.

“It will also provide funding for National Guard military construction, which supports civilian authorities in Delaware and U.S. national security.”

Highlights of the proposed funding include:

•$39 million for the Dover Air Force Base Aircraft Maintenance Hangar. Dover is a key strategic airlift hub for the United States military. However, its coastal location makes it prone to high winds, which frequently renders runway maintenance difficult. Between 2009 and 2014, Dover lost 6,000 hours of lost mission capability due to weather or facility shortages. An aircraft maintenance hangar will improve the speed and quality of maintenance on Dover’s C-5 and C-17 fleet and benefit the base’s airlift mission.

•$41.115 million for the replacement of Dover’s Welch Elementary School and Dover Middle School. The base community relies on both schools, built in 1960. Department of Defense engineers have rated them in poor condition and the money will ensure the next generation of Dover Air Force Base families has access to modern education facilities.

Dover Air Force Base is Delaware’s fifth largest employer. Sen. Coons said that supporting these projects will strengthen the relationship between the local community and the base, a relationship that has long been recognized as one of the strongest of its kind in the country.

•$33 million to finish deepening the Delaware River to 45 feet from 40, a project which supporters say will help create and retain thousands of jobs in Delaware and make it possible for larger ships to come to Delaware. Through his position on the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, Sen. Coons has secured more than $100 million for the project.

•$143.95 million for Air National Guard military construction and $232.93 million for Army National Guard military construction. The money will support various missions vital to both Delaware and broader U.S. national security.

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