An expenditure of $130 million dollars in President Trump’s budget is earmarked for continued work on the Savannah Harbor Deepening Project (SHEP).
The move is applauded by Georgia’s Congressional Delegation as well as local representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“What we’re looking at right now is getting this through Congress,” says Billy Birdwell, spokesman for the Corps of Engineers, Savannah District. “If we get this money, then we can move forward at the same, steady pace that we’re moving along right now.
“That is critical to us to keep this project moving and continuing on schedule.”
About 20 miles of the outer harbor dredging, from about Fort Pulaski past Tybee Island, was completed last March. Birdwell says the focus is now turning to the 20 miles of the inner harbor — the Savannah River from Fort Pulaski to Garden City, which includes dredging the river near downtown Savannah.
“January of 2022 is the time that we anticipate the completion of the inner harbor deepening and that will just about complete the project,” Birdwell told News 3.
Supporters say to get to that completion date, the project has to stay on track.
“There are bipartisan issues up here and infrastructure is one of the bipartisan issues that we’re going to try to stress,” says Congressman Buddy Carter, Republican from Georgia’s 1st district.
Carter acknowledges that the Democratically controlled U.S. House of Representatives has to approve Trump’s budget plan, or at least this item at a time when they seem to have little in common with the president.
The congressman says he does believe that the harbor deepening plan appeals to most lawmakers because of its economic benefits and not just to the southeast.
“This is a very worthwhile project and it’s very beneficial to the entire nation,” said Carter. “For every dollar that we spend on deepening this harbor – the nation will get $7.30 in return.”
Birdwell says the harbor does a lot of importing and exporting — and that Post Panamax ships are already calling on the port.
“The difference after the dredging is that those ships will be able to come in with heavier loads and go out with heavier loads,” said Birdwell.
Carter says to keep in mind there is still work to be done.
“It does us no good to be halfway through and it’s only when this project is completed that we can start seeing the economic benefits in terms of jobs,” Carter said, adding, “This will impact everyone, Republican and Democrat, and it will help the whole country, so I think everyone understands that.”