Port of Savannah Expansion Update

Bridge over the Port of Savannah

The Port of Savannah’s $652 million expansion is moving forward despite the major disappointment and shock felt by Georgia officials after President Obama’s fiscal 2015 budget proposal contained only a small $1.52 million for the busy shipping harbor, and that was only designated for design and pre-construction engineering. President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden had each promised in public appearance speeches that the federal government would recommend major funding for the project, a key factor in keeping America competitive in global trade.

What will Georgia do now?

The state officials are pushing hard to get construction started this year. Governor Nathan Deal proposed $35 million in additional funds as part of his FY2015 budget, and it was approved by the General Assembly. Georgia had already allocated $231 million, and the $266 million total would fulfill the state’s 40 percent portion of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP). Governor Deal said that he still expects the federal government to pay its $391 million obligation after having given final approval to deepen 30 miles of the Savannah River that links to the Atlantic Ocean in the fall of 2012, but that has since been stalled.

Why is the expansion needed?

Deepening the harbor to 47 feet from 42 feet would accommodate more large-sized vessels using the Panama Canal after the Canal’s 2015 expansion. Shipping costs for private companies would reduce by $174 million a year. For every dollar spent on the deepening, the U.S. is due to realize $5.50 in benefits.

How important are Georgia’s inland barge terminals and deep water ports?

They support more than 352,000 state jobs annually, contribute $66.9 billion in revenue, $18.5 billion in income, and $2.5 billion in state and local taxes. Savannah has the second busiest container port on the East Coast and the fourth busiest in the U.S. It moved close to three million cargo containers of imports and exports last year alone.

Georgia officials had felt confident that they eliminated bureaucratic obstacles in the federal spending bill for fiscal 2015 with by reclassifying the harbor expansion from a project under study to one already being constructed. That had given hope for the needed funding. They are now dumbstruck that it did not happen.

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