SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Leaders across Georgia are applauding a move from President Trump to keep the deepening of the Savannah harbor on track.
“This president understands the importance of infrastructure and particularly of this project that arguably is the most important economic development project that we’ve seen in the Southeast since the Interstate system,” said U.S. Representative Buddy Carter, a Republican who represents Georgia’s 1st district.
SHEP (Savannah Harbor Deepening Project) has been in the works for more than two decades, held up in some cases by lawsuits regarding environmental impacts of the dredging. When most of the legal action was settled, the issue turned to the money and continuous funding to complete what is now estimated to be a project costing $1 billion.
That’s why the administration’s recommendation of what supporters term “full” funding of $93.6 million for the next fiscal year is considered important.
“This is great news,” said Billy Birdwell of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District which is in charge of SHEP. “This fully funds what we need to do to keep this harbor going.”
Birdwell says the Corps has actually already started the dredging process in the inner harbor (Savannah River) after spending several years completing dredging in the outer harbor, i.e. the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Tybee.
The inner harbor will be deepened to a depth of 47 feet. Birdwell says currently many large ships cannot come into the harbor fully loaded. He says the deeper harbor will allow more cargo on larger ships and allow more Georgia products to be taken back out on those ships for exports.
“What this means is the commerce that comes into and goes out of this Savannah harbor will benefit the entire nation,” said Birdwell. “This is one of the major drivers of the economy here in Georgia and in parts of South Carolina as well so we are we are moving right along building up the commerce with this deepening and it will be cheaper to move goods in and out of this port.”
The Corps says the funding recommended is for fiscal 2021 (beginning in October of this year and running through October of 2021.) Birdwell says the funding ensures completion of the project on time (estimated to be early 2022.)
“The benefit the cost ratio remains one of the highest in the nation of any infrastructure project,” said Representative Carter.
Congress must approve this funding. Despite a partisan atmosphere, Carter believes this may be one thing that republicans and democrats can agree on.
“I do think that Congress will be very receptive to this,” he said. “We’ve always said that we want infrastructure to be one of our top priorities. It is a bi-partisan issue and this is going to benefit all Americans regardless of what party you’re in.”
On Tuesday, Carter also announced a $34.6 million grant from the Department of Transportation to the Port of Savannah.
“This grant is important because it deals specifically with Berth 1 which is the oldest area of the port,” said Carter.
He told us the grant is going to be used to straighten and realign Berth 1 and to deepen it to 47 feet where it “can accommodate the biggers ships that are coming in as well.”
“So this is really big news is big news, again this is infrastructure and with the land acquisition announced last week, the Georgia Ports Authority is really humming right now,” said Carter.