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Legislature approves additional $35M for port deepening

POSTED: March 20, 2014 3:32 p.m.

The $35 million in additional port deepening funds proposed by Gov. Nathan Deal has been approved by the state legislature and now awaits the governor’s signature.

Along with previous funding, Georgia has now allocated $266 million, fulfilling the state’s portion of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project.

“Lawmakers across Georgia recognize that improving the Savannah Harbor is critically important to the continued economic health of this state and region,” Deal said. “That unified vision is also evident among our delegation to Washington, which has worked tirelessly to secure the federal portion of the project costs. It is now long overdue for the federal government to fund their portion of this federal project to make U.S.-manufactured products more competitive overseas.”

Deepening the Savannah Harbor from 42 to 47 feet will accommodate an increase in the number of super-sized container vessels transiting the Panama Canal after its 2015 expansion. With a deeper channel, larger and more heavily laden ships can arrive and depart with greater scheduling flexibility. These Post Panamax vessels will lower shipping costs per container slot.

A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study has shown that SHEP will reduce shipping costs for private companies by $174 million a year.

The new funding was part of Gov. Deal’s FY2015 budget request, and was included in the final version of the state spending plan passed Tuesday by the General Assembly.

“The leadership from the General Assembly and the governor, pressing forward on the harbor deepening, is a testament to the importance of Georgia’s ports to communities throughout the Southeast,” said GPA Board Chairman Robert Jepson. “We appreciate this strong message our state officials have sent in support of efficient global trade — a key factor in keeping America competitive on the world stage.”

Approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service, the project is anticipated to cost $652 million. The Corps of Engineers study shows a 5.5-to-1 benefit to cost ratio, meaning that for every dollar spent on the deepening, the nation will reap $5.50 in benefits.

“The $266 million in state funding for SHEP is enough to allow significant progress on the project, including environmental improvements such as rerouting freshwater flows, and improvements to the outer harbor,” said GPA Executive Director Curtis Foltz.

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