98 mayors endorse Charleston harbor deepening

CHARLESTON, SC (SCSPA) – Nearly 100 mayors representing cities and towns across South Carolina are urging President Obama to fund the next step in Charleston's post-45 foot harbor deepening project.

Tri-county mayors signing the letter include the mayors of Charleston, Walterboro, Sullivans Island, Isle of Palms, Kiawah Island, Hanahan, Seabrook Island, Awendaw, Moncks Corner, North Charleston, Goose Creek, Rockville, Mt. Pleasant and Folly Beach.

The letter notes the port's tremendous contribution to jobs across the region, and underlines the value of Charleston deepening to U.S. taxpayers.

In the letter the mayors ask President Obama to include funding in the Administration's budget for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to continue with the Charleston project.

A study completed earlier this year by the Corps determined a federal interest in the next Charleston Harbor deepening project.  In fact, the Corps report said, "Preliminary studies at other nearby harbors show that Charleston Harbor would probably be the cheapest South Atlantic harbor to deepen to 50 feet."

The mayors highlight that the United States needs a true deepwater Southeast port to remain competitive in international trade. "We must offer ocean carriers a 50-foot harbor to import and export their goods in the northeast, mid-Atlantic and southeast," the letter states.

Furthermore, the mayors affirm that of ports in the Southeast region deepening Charleston Harbor is the best value as the federal government fulfills its commitment to invest in maritime infrastructure.

The letter states, "Charleston has been deemed by the Corps of Engineers to be the best value for the taxpayer as the federal government invests in harbors and shipping channels in a region where approximately 26,000 companies in two dozen states utilize our port facilities.  This fact cannot be overlooked as you and the Congress are challenged daily by the mounting federal debt and the need to balance the budget."

The 98 mayors signing the letter represent cities and towns large and small, rural and urban, and with local port-related industries in manufacturing, agricultural and distribution clusters.  In South Carolina, nearly $12 billion in wages and more than 260,000 jobs are related to the port.

"We are extremely appreciative of and humbled by the mayors' support for Charleston deepening, particularly Charleston Mayor Joe Riley's leadership," said Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the South Carolina State Ports Authority. "Investing in port infrastructure gives companies across the region efficient access to global markets and supports hundreds of thousands of good jobs at a time when we desperately need them."

The mayors close the letter stating, "Our state and our port stand ready to complete necessary studies to construct this deepening project.  We simply need the money to plan the project and fire up the dredges."

Charleston today offers the deepest channels in the region, moving ships actually drafting up to 48 feet of water on high tide.  Expansion of the Panama Canal will bring even more big ships to the East Coast, as companies and industries seek to improve efficiency and reduce costs.