Charleston harbor deepening project lacking in Obama budget

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Despite the urging of dozens of South Carolina mayors, there is no money in the new Obama administration budget for deepening Charleston Harbor.

Late last year, 98 mayors from across the state wrote the president asking for $400,000 to help pay for a study into deepening the harbor to 50 feet. The deeper water is needed to accommodate bigger ships that will be calling at South Carolina ports in the future.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Charleston District said it is getting just over $20 million for civil works programs in federal budget released by the White House on Monday.

That includes harbor maintenance at the present 45 feet. But the $400,000 needed for a feasibility study on a deeper harbor was not included.

Mayor Riley released the following statement regarding the lack of funds for the Charleston harbor deepening project in President Obama's proposed budget:

"While we are obviously very disappointed that the Administration failed to include funding in its budget for the Charleston Harbor deepening project, we will continue to work to achieve funding for this critical project.  Both Congressman Clyburn and Senator Graham, who have been strong supporters, have assured us that they will continue to forcefully advocate for funding for this project from our national government.

This project is of national interest.  It is of the highest importance to not only the Charleston region and to South Carolina, but to the economic competitiveness of the entire southeast.  An expanded and deepened Charleston Harbor is essential to the continued economic growth of the southeast region of the United States and is a key element in a globally competitive U.S. economy.  Charleston has been determined to be the most cost-effective harbor in our region to deepen to handle the Post-Panamax cargo ships of the future, and it makes good sense to spend limited federal dollars here.

I strongly urge the Administration and the Congress to resolve the issue of how these kinds of nationally significant projects are funded in an environment in which earmarks no longer play a role in federal appropriations.  In the past, these kinds of projects were funded almost exclusively through earmarks, but in an era when earmarks are not used, the question remains as to how the federal government will fund nationally significant infrastructure projects such as the Charleston Harbor deepening project.

I urge the President and our Congressional leaders to tackle this problem immediately."

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