Corps of Engineers: Harbor study may be finished sooner than expected

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Bigger ships and bigger business could be sailing into the Port of Charleston sooner than expected. That is because a study about just how to deepen the harbor could wrap up early.

"We have to look at the long-range future for the economic benefit to the nation," said Lt. Col. Ed Chamberlayne of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "We also look at what the long-range use will be for the Charleston Harbor."

Chamberlayne said a lot will go into the study that decides how and when to deepen the Charleston Harbor.

The State Ports Authority asked for the harbor to be deepened from 45 to 50 feet to handle larger ships that will call once the Panama Canal is widened.

Chamberlayne said because of the lessons learned from the last study that was done, right before the harbor was deepened in 2004, this process could be faster. He said this study will take five to eight years to complete, which is less time than it usually takes for a study like this.

"If everything works as we have planned, we could get into construction in and around 2020," Chamberlayne said.

But even though the harbor was just deepened less than a decade ago, Chamberlayne said it was important to hear the public's concerns this time around.

Many people showed up to the public forum about the study at Mark Clark Hall at the Citadel.

James Brickell said even though the study might be finished earlier, he's still afraid the project won't be completed soon enough.

He said the deepening of the port is crucial for the Charleston economy because by staying competitive in the maritime industry, it helps other businesses thrive as well.

"That's what brings industry into this particular area, and it's one of the great things we have going for us in the Lowcountry," Brickell, who attended the forum, said.

The study is expected to cost $20 million, and the deepening project could cost about $300 million.

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