Savannah Harbor Deepening Gets Long-Awaited Green Light

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October 8, 2014

A containership is loaded with the last of its cargo at the Garden City Terminal at the Port of Savannah. Photo (c) Georgia Ports Authority/Stephen B. Morton

A long-awaited harbor deepening project at Georgia’s Port of Savannah has cleared its final hurdle with the signing of a final project agreement Wednesday.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal announced today that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) and the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) have together signed a Project Partnership Agreement (PPA), allowing construction on the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP) to begin.

The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project will deepen the Savannah Harbor federal shipping channel from a depth of -42 feet to -47 feet, as well as deepen and extend the entrance channel and enlarge the turning basin a the Garden City Terminal in order to improve navigation. The project received its first funding way back in October 2009.

“Georgia and its congressional delegation have fought long and hard to see this project through to fruition – a project that is vitally important for economic development and job creation not only in the Southeast, but nationally as well,” said Deal. “After years of regulatory purgatory, we finally cleared the last hurdle and hope to begin dredging in the Savannah River before the end of the year. This pivotal link in our logistics network will aid in the prompt delivery of valuable cargo to and from every corner of Georgia and, in turn, preserve and create jobs and encourage economic growth.

“Every budget I have submitted and signed into law has included money for the state share of the deepening. My most recent budget included Georgia’s final commitment, allowing this project to move forward now. Georgia has been ranked the top state in the U.S. for business by three different scoring agencies, and this expansion project will play a crucial role in ensuring our state maintains that top distinction. I appreciate the cooperative efforts of all involved in this process and I’m especially thankful to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Speaker David Ralston for their leadership in the General Assembly. I’ve said time and again that ‘it’s time to start moving dirt,’ and now we can.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that the harbor deepening project will bring $174 million in annual net benefits to the U.S. and 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 project will cost approximately $706 million, including construction and environmental mitigation costs. As a part of this cost-sharing agreement, the Corps will be able to use the 40 percent share of state funds to begin construction while it awaits congressional appropriations for the remaining 60 percent of federal funding. The state has already set aside $266 million – the total state share for the project.

“The signing of the PPA marks the starting point for construction on the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project,” said Savannah District Commander Col. Thomas Tickner. “This sets us on the path to improving transportation of goods into and out of this harbor in an environmentally sensitive manner, which will benefit the area, the region and the nation.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released the competitive bidding contracts prepared for the early actions to deepen the harbor.

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