From the AJC’s Savannah port expansion gets small boost in president’s budget:
President Barack Obama’s budget request, submitted to Congress on Wednesday, includes $1.28 million for pre-construction engineering and design work for the harbor expansion project, barely keeping the federal spigot flowing. It is less than half the amount proposed last year and a drop in the bucket of the project’s $652 million price tag.
Advocates of the Savannah Harbor Expansion project — the ambitious plan to deepen the Savannah River channel to 47′ to accommodate some of the larger ships expected to use the widened Panama Canal — might be glad just to see the line item in the budget (last year the project received just $2.8 million), and they might be heartened by the president’s strong rhetoric about investing in infrastructure.
But this apparently means that Georgia’s congressional delegation will be in the position of pushing hard to find over $400 million — the proposed share of the project to be paid for by the feds.
There are a number of complications, however, a few of which were detailed in an article in the Savannah Morning News last week.
In addition to a lawsuit from environmental groups, there is also the simmering tension between folks representing Georgia and South Carolina port interests. While Georgia officials have adopted an official stance that favors investment in all East Coast ports, there has been strong resistance in S.C. from those who want to protect the Charleston port, those who think the proposed project will be of insufficient depth and will preclude the possibility of constructing the long-proposed Jasper Port on the Savannah River, and those who have serious environmental questions.
Nearly $300 million will be spent on environmental mitigation if/when the project is funded.
It will be interesting to hear the reaction from Georgia’s congressional delegation, especially Senator Johnny Isakson who helped organize a dinner with President Obama tonight.