Obama’s $42.7 million Savannah Port expansion proposal disappoints project boosters

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September 17, 2014 Savannah, GA: After years of political wrangling and environmental concerns, the deepening of the Savannah River is one step closer to becoming a reality. Officials argue a deeper port is needed in order for Georgia to remain competitive and accommodate the larger class of ships. BRANT SANDERLIN / BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM .
September 17, 2014 Savannah, GA: After years of political wrangling and environmental concerns, the deepening of the Savannah River is one step closer to becoming a reality. Officials argue a deeper port is needed in order for Georgia to remain competitive and accommodate the larger class of ships. BRANT SANDERLIN / BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM .

Brant Sanderlin, bsanderlin@ajc.com

The Obama administration on Tuesday requested $42.7 million for continued construction of the Savannah Harbor expansion project, far less than what Georgia boosters wanted for the state’s largest economic development project.

In addition to the construction dollars, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ proposal for the budget year that begins Oct. 1 also includes $23.5 million in a separate operations and maintenance account for the harbor.

Gov. Nathan Deal said the proposal for the Savannah Harbor expansion project (SHEP) “falls short.” From the press release:

“I will be calling once again on our partners in the congressional delegation, who have advocated tirelessly for SHEP funding. I’m confident they will do everything possible to prioritize funding for the Army Corps of Engineers’ SHEP construction to ensure the project stays on track for completion within five years. The federal government gave Georgia its word and must do more to uphold its obligations.”

While the lion’s share of presidential budget proposals are considered non-starters on Capitol Hill, Obama’s request is incredibly important for individual government projects coveted by state officials since lawmakers can no longer earmark money for specific ventures in spending bills.

Georgia supporters were shooting for a federal contribution of between $80 million and $100 million this year in order to help the project keep pace with its construction schedule.

The project, which would deepen the river from 42 feet to 47 feet in order to make room for larger cargo ships coming though the recently expanded Panama Canal, has united political leaders from both parties. Deal and state legislators have put up $266 million for the project and are expecting $440 million from the federal government in order to complete the project by 2020.


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