The $50 million in additional port deepening funds proposed by Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has been approved by the state legislature and now awaits the governor’s signature.
Along with previous funding, Georgia has allocated $231.1 million toward the state’s portion of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP).
Deepening the Savannah Harbor from 42 to 47 feet will accommodate an increase in the number of super-sized container vessels transiting the Panama Canal after its 2015 expansion. “With a deeper channel, larger and more heavily laden ships can arrive and depart with greater scheduling flexibility,” the Georgia Ports Authority said.
Overall, the cost of the deepening project is anticipated to be $652 million. The Record of Decision, signifying final federal approval for the project, was issued in October 2012, clearing an important hurdle toward federal construction dollars.
“The Record of Decision means the project has been determined safe for the environment by our federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service,” said GPA Executive Director Curtis Foltz in a statement. “Additional studies by the Army Corps of Engineers show a 5.5-to-1 benefit to cost ratio, meaning that for every dollar spent on the deepening, the nation will reap $5.50 in benefits.”
The planned new depth of 47 feet allows the South Atlantic port to more efficiently accommodate post-Panamax containerships. Additionally, general navigation will be improved, with wider channel turns and a larger turning basin. The Savannah River, which features a seven-foot tidal change twice a day, will continue to host two-way containership traffic, the port authority said.