Hopes Rise for Start of Long Delayed Harbor Project

| September 10, 2014

Savannah PortsEric Baker, Valdosta Today Newsdesk:

SAVANNAH–An agreement is in the works between the state of Georgia and the Army Corp of Engineers to allow work to begin on the long delayed Savannah Harbor deepening project, the Savannah Morning News reported Tuesday morning edition in an article by Russ Bynum.

The cost-sharing agreement would allow Georgia, which has already set aside $266 million for the project as its share of the $706 million projected cost, to begin dredging the 30 mile Savannah River channel to the Atlantic Ocean ending just north of Tybee Island. Work could begin as early as the end of 2014.

While the federal government has yet to fully fund its 60% portion of the project costs, Georgia is ready to get things moving. “We can’t afford to wait,” Georgia Governor Nathan Deal said in making the announcement.
The project has been on the planning table for nearly 18 years. The Panama Canal, on the other hand, was completed in 10 years after the United States took over that project from the French and involved 48 miles of deepening and excavation work with late 19th century technology.

Expanding the port is essential if Savannah, the nation’s 4th busiest container port, is to stay competitive. A new generation of supersized cargo ships, capable of handling twice the current fleet’s vessel capacity, has most ports scrambling to get projects funded and completed before the expanded capacity vessels come on line. Project managers for the $5.25 billion Panama Canal expansion project, through which most of these ships will pass, expect it to be completed to meet that 2016 deadline.

According to Curtis Foltz, the Georgia Ports Authority’s executive director, the work “can’t happen quickly enough.”
Deal considers the Savannah Harbor project as “Georgia’s top economic development project” and expects the Corps of Engineers, who have to sign off on the project, to pen their approval before the end of September. Estimates call for a final completion date in the 2nd half of 2018, according to Foltz.

Economic impact reports show that Georgia’s deepwater ports and inland barge terminals support more than 352,000 jobs throughout the state annually and contribute $18.5 billion in income, $66.9 billion in revenue and $2.5 billion in state and local taxes to Georgia’s economy. The Port of Savannah handled 8 percent of the U.S. containerized cargo volume and 10.9 percent of all U.S. containerized exports in FY2013.

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