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Corps of Engineers pushes another $2.5M to harbor deepening

POSTED: February 9, 2012 4:31 p.m.

The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP) received an additional $2.5 million in construction funding Wednesday.

In the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) work plan released for the remainder of fiscal year 2012, the USACE allocated a total of $3,088,000 to the work. That includes the $588,000 originally budgeted, with the additional amount coming from a fund created by Congress for underfunded port projects around the nation.

“The credit for this important new funding goes to Georgia’s delegation in Washington and other Congressional leaders, whose efforts will move this project forward in a significant way,” said GPA Executive Director Curtis Foltz. “We are truly grateful to our Senators and Representatives for their work on behalf of the ports.”

According to the USACE, deepening the Savannah Harbor up to 48 feet will bring more than $115 million in annual economic benefits to the United States, primarily by lowering transportation costs. With excellent transportation infrastructure already in place, including two Class I rail terminals on terminal, the SHEP will quickly provide the nation greatly needed benefits to recover from the economic downturn.

This new funding will be used to develop the detailed construction designs required to provide the deeper channel as well as the environmental mitigation components of the project. The design work will need to be completed before moving to construction following the approvals by the Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of Commerce, Secretary of the Army and the Administrator of the EPA.

Port officials say the harbor project is necessary to prepare for a new class of larger container ships that are nearly three times the capacity of those currently able to transit the Panama Canal. In 2014, the Panama Canal expansion will be completed and increase the maximum draft of vessels traveling to and from the U.S. East Coast from 39.5 feet to as much as 50 feet.

While the Port of Savannah regularly handles vessels that are too large to transit the Panama Canal, these vessels cannot load to their capacity.

“The Corps should release the final study documents this Spring clearing the way for federal approval of the project,” Foltz said. “Once construction begins, we anticipate the deepening to be completed in 2016.”

The Port of Savannah also fared well on maintenance dredging funds, receiving an additional $4,842,090 in federal dollars, for a total on the year of $21.9 million. Similarly, the Port of Brunswick received another $1,048,410 for maintenance dredging, for a total of $3,989,410 for the fiscal year.

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