Army Corps Gives OK To Deepen Savannah Port

The Army Corps of Engineers has given approval to proceed with expanding Savannah’s port.  Congress must still OK the cost increase from the original projection made back in 1999 when the project was first proposed.  The Corps released the following press release, as reported by the Savannah Morning News:

Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy signed the Record of Decision for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, known as SHEP, Oct. 26. The Record of Decision confirms that the proposed plan for Savannah Harbor channel improvements, including the associated mitigation, is in the national interest and meets the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. The decision also allows the project’s advancement to the construction phase. This action represents the culmination of thirteen years of comprehensive studies and extensive agency coordination as required by Congress in the 1999 Water Resources Development Act.

The signing of the ROD completes the federal government’s review of the project’s justification and meets President Barack Obama’s “We Can’t Wait Initiative” commitment of completing federal government decisions for this project by November 2012. This is a major milestone for SHEP.

Under SHEP the Corps of Engineers would deepen the Savannah Harbor navigation channel from its current 42-foot depth to a 47-foot depth. Studies demonstrate the deepening will produce substantial economic benefits for the nation by enabling la rger and more heavily loaded vessels to call on the harbor with fewer tidal delays. The total project cost estimate is currently $652 million. SHEP is expected to net more than $174 million in annual benefits to the nation and has a benefit-to-cost ratio of $5.50 for every $1 invested. Given the proximity of the shipping channel to sensitive estuarine resources, the Corps, along with its state and federal partners, conducted exhaustive engineering and environmental studies to identify the environmental impacts that would be expected from the project and ensure those impacts will be offset through mitigation. Mitigation accounts for approximately half of the project cost.

“The Record of Decision affirms that deepening Savannah harbor to 47 feet is economically viable, environmentally sustainable, and in the best interests of the nation,” said Col. Jeffrey Hall, Savannah District commander and District Engineer. “SHEP has undergone a comprehensive approval process and i s an effort that has involved not just the Corps but three other federal agencies and environmental agencies from Georgia and South Carolina.” The federal agencies that approved the project include the Department of Commerce, the Department of Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency. These agencies gave their approval in July.
Before construction can begin, the Corps must obtain Congressional approval for an increase in project cost from $230 million, which was approved in 1999, to the current estimated cost of $652 million. In addition, a project-partnership agreement with the State of Georgia must be approved. That document would define how the costs to build the project would be shared. It is anticipated that the agreement will be written to allow flexibility concerning the use of non-federal funding to initiate the construction. Construction could begin as early as summer 2013.


  1. Harry says:

    South Carolina doesn’t like this development, but it actually is a plus for South Carolina as well as Georgia as the port is essentially on the border of both states, just as Jacksonville is a plus for both Florida and Georgia. Improvements made at Charleston, Savannah and Jacksonville guarantee a high proportion of east coast ocean freight will flow and be distributed through these three ports, with Savannah in the center.

  2. Scott65 says:

    Thats why Gov. Haley supported it. She knew it meant jobs for SC. There is also another unfortunate event thats going to make this important…Hurricane Sandy is probably going to cause catastrophic damage to almost all the NE United States ports. I for one am amazed that this isn’t being hyped more…it needs to be. This storm is unlike anything anyone up there has ever seen. Think about the images from Hurricane Ike several years ago. Thats what you are going to see with Sandy. It is almost unheard of for a system to strike the NE coast at a perpendicular angle (they usually ride along the coast when they make landfall. This being such a large storm the surge will be historic. Irene’s surge was 4.75 ft Sandy’s is predicted to be 6-10ft and will flood most of lower Manhattan, LGA (airport) will be under water…and the port will be seriously damaged. Also storms like this also have the ability actually change the coastline…creating inlets where there were none and closing some off (ask anyone in the outer banks about that one). I sure hope that people heed the warnings or there will be great loss of life

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