FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Charleston, SC - While Congress continues to debate a resolution for the Fiscal Year 2011 appropriations process, the Charleston Harbor Deepening project received some good news late last week. The Senate Appropriations Committee joined with its House counterpart in supporting the next phase in Charleston Harbor Deepening, a project that will provide the first fully capable post-Panamax harbor in the U.S. Southeast.
As media reports noted throughout the fall, the Senate Appropriations Committee initially did not designate funding for Charleston’s deepening project in its draft Fiscal Year 2011 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) Funding Bill. However, due to months of work by Senator Lindsey Graham, the Committee designated $379,000 to allow the Corps' Charleston District to continue the study phase. Complementing Senator Graham’s efforts in the Senate, Congressmen Clyburn, Brown and Spratt ensured the project was listed in the House Corps funding bill.
“Charleston Harbor Deepening has now been endorsed in both the U.S. House and the Senate,” said Bill Stern, chairman of the South Carolina State Ports Authority (SCSPA). “While the final outcome of Fiscal Year 2011 appropriations will continue to be debated through March of next year, this action demonstrates that both chambers support Charleston Harbor Deepening. The project is very much on track to move forward in 2011.”
The entire study could cost $5 million or more, an amount that is equally cost-shared between the Federal government and the SCSPA. The overall deepening project is estimated to cost around $300 million, a cost that would also be shared.
The SCSPA will continue to work with members of the South Carolina Congressional Delegation, the Corps and the White House to ensure that funding for the deepening project is provided and that the project continues to be a priority in Washington. Nearly 100 mayors of cities and towns across South Carolina recently wrote the President in support of this important national economic development project.
"To handle larger ships and growing exports, the U.S. desperately needs a Southeast port that can deliver 50 feet of water," said Jim Newsome, president & CEO of the SCSPA.
This summer the Corps determined a federal interest in Charleston Harbor Deepening and concluded, "Preliminary studies at other nearby harbors show that Charleston Harbor would probably be the cheapest South Atlantic harbor to deepen to 50 feet."
Charleston already has the region’s deepest channels and handles post-Panamax ships drawing up to 48 feet on the tides today. The next deepening will open the port to all classes of the world’s most modern vessels under any tidal condition. Current channel depths at low tide are 47 feet in the entrance channel and 45 feet in the inner harbor.
More than 300 ships too big for the Panama Canal have already called Charleston, four years before the $5-billion canal expansion is completed. Nearly 80 percent of the ship capacity on order is for ships too big for the existing canal.