SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The Army Corps of Engineers announced Monday that dredging of the inner harbor will begin as part of the SHEP (Savannah Harbor Expansion Project.)
“We’re on the 10-yard line of a fully deepened channel. You are witnessing the start of the last action that will have a nationwide impact,” said Col. Daniel Hibner from the Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District.
The SHEP project is now estimated at a total cost of nearly $1 billion. However, the Corps, community and state leaders and Congressman Buddy Carter (Republican from the 1st District) all say the rewards will be worth the cost.
“We can’t reap the benefits until it is completed and when it is completed you’re going to see a lot more commerce up and down this river,” said Congressman Carter.
The inner harbor project runs from Fort Pulaski up the Savannah River to the Garden City Port. Work on the outer harbor from the ocean to Fort Pulaski was finished in March of 2018. However, the Corps could not start the inner harbor dredge until it proved that dredging the river would not damage fish.
The Corps built two dissolved oxygen plants to put oxygen back into the river water. It reported that it monitored results for several months and the plants were working as designed.
“We’ve proven that we can deliver on critical environmental demands and now the remaining portion of this channel is on its way to 47 feet,” said Col. Hibner.
He said we should see dredges in the water as soon as this week.
The 47 feet depth is critical, according to officials like Griff Lynch, the executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority, so that the port can accommodate larger ships carrying larger loads.
“What it ultimately means is these ships will be able to go down to 47 feet fully loaded. We will not have freight missing because we can’t load it and going to other places which costs more, so this is a big deal,” said Lync.
Lynch, Carter and Col. Hibner all thanked the staff of the Corps of Engineers, Savannah District saying it was their tireless efforts over two decades that allowed the project to move forward.