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Corps commander discusses harbor deepening work
0603 Corps-Ports
Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Curtis Foltz, left, and Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, give an update on the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project as cranes work a vessel. - photo by Photo by Stephen Morton/GPA

Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, visited the Port of Savannah on Thursday for an update on the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project.

“The SHEP will create economic opportunity not only across Georgia, but throughout the Southeast,” said Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal. “We’re grateful for our federal partners and their efforts thus far and will continue to work with them to ensure that their commitment is fully funded and reflects the importance of this project to the nation.”

The harbor deepening, currently in the construction phase, will deepen the shipping channel from 42 to 47 feet at mean low water. This will allow larger vessels to transit the channel with heavier loads and greater scheduling flexibility.

“This project demonstrates how the demand for commerce and the need for environmental stewardship can be accommodated in a single purpose,” said Bostick. “The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project reinforces our commitment to a sustainable 21st century infrastructure that will strengthen the nation›s economy and bolster global competitiveness, create jobs, reduce risk to people and communities, and help restore and sustain the environment. I’m happy to have the opportunity to meet personally with our partners to discuss this project. We are committed to working closely with GPA to complete SHEP.”

Businesses and consumers across the nation are projected to save $174 million a year through increased transportation efficiency. Each dollar invested in the SHEP will return $5.50 to the economy.

Three major phases of the project are well under way. Archaeologists began diving Jan. 29 to recover the remains of the Confederate ironclad CSS Georgia. The historic Civil War ironclad rests 40 feet below the river’s surface on the edge of the navigation channel. Scuttled by her crew in 1864 to prevent Union capture, the vessel has been at the bottom of the river since. The harbor deepening plan calls for data recovery, removal and conservation of this cultural resource.

On March 4, the contract to deepen the entrance channel was awarded to Great Lakes Dredge and Dock. The work for this contract represents about half of the channel deepening, increasing the depth of the channel in the Atlantic Ocean to 49 feet below mean sea level, and extending it an additional seven miles.

Bids for a dissolved oxygen system contract are currently under evaluation. Awarding of the contract is expected within the next few months. This system will ensure the river maintains necessary dissolved oxygen levels during hot, dry months when levels typically drop.

“The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project has seen major progress in the past few months, with the contract issued to deepen the 18-mile outer harbor to 49 feet, crews raising the CSS Georgia, and installation set to start for oxygen injection systems,” said GPA Executive Director Curtis Foltz. “The Corps of Engineers has been a steadfast partner in the 15-year process leading up to construction, and we look forward to working with the Corps and our Washington delegation to bring this pivotal project to completion.”