Port dredging a team effort

The allocation of $29 million by the Army Corps of Engineers to complete the Delaware River deepening project is a great example of how our political system can work and the importance of effective leadership in our congressional delegation.
This $360 million dredging project, scheduled to be completed by the end of this year, will create a 45-foot deep channel that will enable the Port of Philadelphia to handle 95 percent of the world's container a vessels.

The annual fight for federal funding since 2012 was intense. Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) and Rep. Bob Brady (D., Phila.) worked to ensure the federal funding to make the port an economic catalyst for the region. Their efforts enabled Gov. Wolf to allocate an additional $300 million of state resources to expand the port. The project will more-than-double the port's container volume, grow our job base from 10,000 to 17,000 workers, and provide high-quality, family-sustaining jobs while generating millions of dollars in local and state tax revenue.

This was also a great example of bipartisan cooperation. U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan (R., Delaware) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) helped eliminate roadblocks and garnered key support.

On behalf PhilaPort's board of directors, the authority staff, and the men and women who work on the waterfront, I'd like to thanks the leaders who made this project a reality.

Jerry Sweeney, chairman, PhilaPort, Philadelphia

Can’t afford to cut science funds

In the 2018 federal budget, science is given a very short shrift by the Trump administration. I am a retired research scientist who was supported through graduate school by funding from the National Science Foundation, which led to my 30-year career in the chemical industry.

The federal science agencies are facing budgets cuts ranging up to 30 percent. These agencies funded important contributions — knowledge of genetically based diseases and improved antidepressants (National Institutes of Health), American sign language and bar-code scanning (National Science Foundation), and the National Weather Service.

With diminished funding levels, we stand to lose much more than esoteric science at our academic "ivory towers." We will lose valuable education resources; development of practical, everyday science and technology that improves our health and our lives; and a vital engine for American innovation and job creation.

Andrea B. Kirk, Ivyland, abkirk@comcast.net

Pennsylvanians need Penn Vet

Many Pennsylvanians trust their beloved pets to the care of their veterinarian because they know veterinarians provide compassionate care for companion animals. Few Pennsylvanians are aware, however, of the role veterinarians play in protecting the food supply.

Penn Vet, the only School of Veterinary Medicine in Pennsylvania, has received state funding until the most recent budget proposal. The funding is critical to protecting public health and Pennsylvania's food supply. Consider:

  • There is no other facility in the state capable of a timely rabies assessment or other diagnostics.
  • It collects swine virus data, helping farmers and truckers see where disease is present to prevent its spread. The program maintains a map covering 1.29 million hogs in the state, resulting in a 30 percent reduction in infected pigs.
  • During the last budget impasse, Penn Vet conducted 70,000 tests for avian flu without payment, while the disease was causing billions of dollars in losses in the Midwest.
  • Its egg-quality assurance program results in 99.99 percent of Pennsylvania eggs making it to market without salmonella.

Let's ensure that the state has a safe food supply by restoring funding for Penn Vet.

Joan C. Hendricks, dean, Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, vetdean@vet.upenn.edu

Making Philly water affordable

Rising water rates can have a significant impact on low-income families in Philadelphia, so the Revenue and Water Departments are expanding our customer assistance programs.

The Tiered Assistance Program (TAP), which will start July 1, could help 60,000 low-income customers (13 percent of the residential account base) to maintain their water services and reduce their monthly bill — a significant increase over the 10,000 customers who are enrolled in the current assistance program.

For customers at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level, monthly bills will be based on 2 to 4 percent of their household income. Customers in the lowest income bracket could have a minimum bill of $12 per month.

Under TAP:

  • Customers will pay a consistent monthly bill, making it easier to budget and plan.
    Old debt will be suspended.
  • Customers with high water consumption will be helped to lower their consumption through conservation measures.
  • Customers who pay their monthly bill for two years will have past penalties forgiven.
  • Anyone struggling with his or her water bill may apply.

For information, call 215-685-6300 or visit www.phila.gov/water-bill-help.

Debra A. McCarty, water commissioner, and Frank Breslin, revenue commissioner, Philadelphia

Offer third-party notification

While I am pleased that the Philadelphia Water Department is implementing an innovative plan to help families keep the water running, I encourage the department to expand its options to include third-party notification.

Third-party notification would alert the department of the name and telephone number of a relative or friend who has agreed to assist the family in paying the water bill. PGW and PECO already offer such a support system. It might reduce the need for subsequent rate increases.

Given the number of low-income households, many with children and/or senior citizens,
third-party notification should be a key component of the department's delinquency-reduction strategy.

Sharon A. Bembery, Philadelphia, sbembery@icloud.com

Democrats hurting themselves

Where are the thinkers in the Democratic Party? By backing Jon Ossoff, who doesn't live in the congressional district he was seeking to represent ("Republican wins Ga. special election," Wednesday), the Democratic Party was designing the strategy for the opposition.

Until Democrats find people who can deflect criticism of their candidates rather than designing it, maybe President Trump is correct when he says he can't be beat.

Gerald Skobinsky, Elkins Park, jsdoc1943@gmail.com