- THE MAGAZINE
President Obama included more than $15 million in critical funding for S.C. Ports Authority projects, including the Post-45 harbor deepening project, in his fiscal year 2015 budget.
"The Administration has included funding for the SCPA's deepening project in its budget for three consecutive years," said Bill Stern, SCPA board chairman. "We're deeply appreciative that the [Obama] administration recognizes our harbor deepening as a critical infrastructure project. The support from President Obama and Vice President Biden---along with members of Congress, the South Carolina delegation, South Carolina Legislature, Gov. Haley and Mayor Riley---cannot be overstated in its impact on the SCPA's future competitiveness and our role in the region and nation's prosperity."
The administration allocated the requested $695,000 to continue the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers feasibility study of the Charleston Harbor deepening. The project's Draft Environmental Impact Statement is scheduled to be released later this year and the Chief's Report in September of 2015, which will recommend to Congress a depth to dredge the harbor. President Barack Obama's allocations ensure that all aspects of the project remain on time and within budget.
Charleston Harbor is designated to receive $1.57 million in construction funding and $13.15 million in operations and maintenance funding.
All levels of government have supported deepening Charleston Harbor. Vice President Joe Biden visited the Port of Charleston last year and emphasized the importance of deepening to 50 feet to accommodate post-Panamax ships that will access the East Coast after the Panama Canal expansion. The administration has named the Charleston Harbor Post-45 Project in its "We Can't Wait" initiative, which seeks to expedite the most critical infrastructure projects in the country.
Congress has demonstrated support for S.C. Ports initiatives with authorization and appropriations efforts through the Water Resources and Reform Development Act (WRRDA) and passage of the Omnibus bill. And in 2012, the South Carolina General Assembly set aside $300 million to cover the full estimated cost of construction for 50-foot or deeper harbor, ensuring that funding issues would not create delays in the project's progress.
Harbor funding recommendations will now be considered by the full Congress.
With 45 feet of depth at mean low water, Charleston currently has the deepest harbor in the region and can handle ships drafting up to 48 feet on high tide. Deepening Charleston Harbor to 50 feet or more will open the port to larger post-Panamax container ships 24 hours a day. Currently, Charleston receives seven post-Panamax ship calls weekly.