State Ports Authority not giving up on Charleston Harbor deepening

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - President Obama's fiscal year 2012 budget doesn't include money to look into the deepening of Charleston Harbor. But the State Ports Authority is not giving up hope of getting a feasibility study started on deepening the harbor.

With bigger ships set to be in motion in three years through the Panama Canal, the State Ports Authority wants a deeper harbor to be able handle them.

The SPA wanted $400,000 of federal money to start the feasibility study needed to deepen Charleston's Harbor. But President Obama could not find room for it in his budget.

"We worked hard to try to get in the budget. We knew it was an uphill battle given the fact we were going to a new phase in the project. We have to keep working," SPA President Jim Newsome said.

Newsome says he remains optimistic that the Army Corps of Engineers can develop a work plan that would get the federal dollars needed to start the study.

"Because we're not asking for a lot of money. It's $400,000. We think that there should be room within their capability to establish that in a work plan," Newsome said.

Lisa Metheney, a project manager at the Army Corps of Engineers, says they have to wait until early March to find out what kind of funding they'll get from Congress before planning any projects.

The feasibility study would determine how deep the current 45 foot deep harbor could be dredged, as well as economic and environmental impacts. The $400,000 would only start the study, which when completed ends up costing millions.

But it's a price Newsome says will benefit the whole South Atlantic region. President Obama's budget did include money for the Army Corp's maintenance of Charleston Harbor.

Mayor Joe Riley and nearly 100 other mayors across the state signed a letter asking for President Obama's support in the feasibility study.

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