President’s Budget Includes Funding for Charleston Harbor Deepening (USA)

For the first time, the President’s Budget includes funding for Charleston Harbor Deepening, demonstrating that leaders at the highest levels of government recognize the project as one critical to the nation’s economic future.

In the budget announced yesterday, the Administration included $3.549 million for Charleston’s post-45 foot deepening project for fiscal year 2013, which begins October 1, 2012.

We are incredibly grateful to the Administration for recognizing the importance of the Port of Charleston in the national economic strategy,” said Bill Stern, chairman of the South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) Board. “This funding puts us well on our way to completing the feasibility phase of this project so we can move expeditiously to deepening Charleston Harbor.

“Sen. Lindsey Graham, along with Congressman Jim Clyburn, has gone above and beyond to champion this project with the Administration,” Stern said. “Additionally, Mayor Riley’s involvement has been invaluable as he has used every opportunity with the President to emphasize Charleston Harbor’s merits.”

Today’s announcement comes on the heels of the release last week of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Work Plan for the rest of fiscal year 2012, which included $2.5 million for the continued work on the Charleston Harbor post-45 foot deepening project. The latest allocation, if approved by Congress, also means that the federal government’s share of the study cost is now more than halfway funded.

“We welcome any future opportunity to show the Administration that their investment in Charleston is the nation’s best buy in harbor projects, with a payoff in new jobs and economic growth across the region,” Stern said.

The feasibility study is estimated at $20 million, which is cost-shared 50/50 between the federal government and the South Carolina Ports Authority. The SCPA also has committed to accelerate its half of the study funds as needed to continue to advance the project.

The Corps stated in its Reconnaissance Study in 2010 that Charleston is likely “the cheapest South Atlantic harbor to deepen to 50 feet.” Charleston’s harbor deepening project is estimated to deliver $106 million in net benefits annually for an approximately $140-million federal investment. The total deepening project is estimated at $300 million.

Funds for the nation’s Corps of Engineers’ Civil Works projects in the President’s Budget represented a 5.4 percent decrease in funding from the previous year. The Budget document stated that the savings were achieved “by prioritizing investments that will yield high economic and environmental returns.” The President’s Budget also included $15.8 million for maintenance dredging in Charleston Harbor.

With 45 feet of depth at mean low water, Charleston currently has the deepest channels in the South Atlantic region and can handle ships drafting up to 48 feet on high tide. Deepening Charleston Harbor will open the port to expanded trade opportunities and increased big-ship traffic via the new locks of the Panama Canal 24 hours a day.

Already in 2012, the Port of Charleston has handled 24 ships with actual docking or sailing drafts 40 feet or greater, too deep for today’s Panama Canal.

About the South Carolina Ports Authority:

The South Carolina Ports Authority, established by the state’s General Assembly in 1942, owns and operates public seaport facilities in Charleston and Georgetown, handling international commerce valued at more than $58 billion annually while receiving no direct taxpayer subsidy. An economic development engine for the state, port operations facilitate 260,800 jobs across South Carolina and nearly $45 billion in economic activity each year.

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Dredging Today Staff, February 14, 2012

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