WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., today applauded the official beginning of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project as dredging began to deepen the seaward half of the harbor, which extends 18.5 miles from Fort Pulaski into the Atlantic Ocean.
“The start of dredging is a great victory for the future of Georgia, the Southeast and for our country,” said Isakson. “The expansion and deepening of the Port of Savannah has been a top priority of mine since coming to the Senate in 2005, and I am so pleased to see this critical project get underway. It has been the result of many years of work and partnership among Georgia leaders including Governor Deal, former Senator Saxby Chambliss, former Congressman Jack Kingston, and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.”
In February 2015, the administration’s fiscal year 2016 budget request included $29.7 million for the Savannah harbor — $21.05 million for the expansion project and an additional $8.66 million to dispose of the dredging waste in Georgia and South Carolina. In addition, the president’s budget lists the Savannah project for the first time as an “ongoing construction project,” a designation that allows this vital economic infrastructure project to stay on track for future federal funding.
The Savannah Harbor Expansion, known informally as SHEP, has broad bipartisan support from Georgia’s local, state and federal leaders. The president previously included SHEP in his 2012 “We Can’t Wait” initiative, in which he specifically pledged to expedite SHEP and four other port projects.
The final Project Partnership Agreement between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Georgia Department of Transportation and the Georgia Ports Authority to allow construction to begin on the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project was signed on October 8, 2014.
More information on the Savannah Harbor Expansion project is available here.
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 to accommodate the 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.
The deepening project will cost approximately $706 million, including construction and environmental mitigation costs. The federal government has a role in funding this project because the U.S. Constitution gives it authority over navigable waters.
OFFICE OF UNITED STATES SENATOR JOHNNY ISAKSON
131 Russell Senate Office Building | Washington, DC 20510
phone: 202.224.3643 | fax: 202.228.0724