Representative Earl L. Carter, U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson and David Perdue, along with the entire Georgia U.S. House of Representatives delegation, urged the administration to include critical funding for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP) in the President’s fiscal year 2017 budget.
In a letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan, the Georgia congressional delegation called for the inclusion of at least $100 million in federal funding for SHEP.
This figure is essential to staying on track, avoiding cost overruns and preventing timing setbacks.
The total cost of the Savannah Harbor project is $706 million, and the federal government’s share of that cost is $440 million. The state of Georgia has already contributed its $266 million share of the project’s cost.
If the federal government allots less than $100 million a year to the Savannah Harbor project for fiscal years 2017-2020, the project cannot be completed by 2020 and the resulting delays could ultimately cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.
“We would like to point out that the key to the success of this project will be whether the Administration’s budget proposal next year includes at least the approximately $100 million that [the United States Army Corps of Engineers] has identified as the level that would keep the project on the path to timely and cost-effective completion,” said the Georgia congressional delegation.
“The $100 million-per-year schedule would not represent any special treatment or accelerated funding for SHEP; rather, it would be consistent with funding provided to similar projects of high national importance in recent years. It would simply allow use of standard contracting practices that provide normal cost efficiencies in channel dredging projects.”
The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project was authorized in the Water Resources and Development Act of 1999 to deepen the Savannah River from its current 42-foot depth to as much as 48 feet.
The project is being undertaken in anticipation of an expansion of the Panama Canal that will increase the maximum draft of vessels travelling to and from the East Coast from 39.5 feet to as much as 50 feet.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that the harbor deepening project will bring $174 million in annual net benefits to the United States. For the Post-Panamax II vessels, the extra five feet of depth will allow for an additional 3,600 cargo containers in each transit, an increase of 78 percent.
Dredging for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project began on September 14, 2015.