CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The SC House committee shaping the state's budget is setting aside $180 million for harbor deepening.
The South Carolina House of Representatives' Ways and Means Committee established the Harbor Deepening Reserve Fund and included $180 million in non-recurring funds to be used for deepening the state's harbors, including the Charleston Post 45 Harbor Deepening Project.
"We are most appreciative to the members of House Ways and Means for their strong commitment to our state's ports and the Charleston's Harbor Deepening Project," Bill Stern, chairman of the South Carolina Ports Authority, said. "By including $180 million for construction at this time, South Carolina shows that it stands firmly behind this project and is ready to usher it through to completion."
The fund would be used to cover the state's share of construction costs following the completion of the project's feasibility study. The total deepening project cost is estimated at $300 million and 60 percent, or $180 million, would be funded by the state. Any expenditures from the fund would require approval by the South Carolina General Assembly through a joint resolution.
Charleston's Harbor Deepening Project has built considerable momentum in recent weeks. Last week, $3.5 million toward the project's feasibility study was included in the President's Budget for fiscal year 2013. That allocation, along with the funds already included in the Corps' Work Plan, means that the federal share of the feasibility study is more than halfway funded.
Already the deepest harbor in the region, Charleston's deepening project would open the port to the biggest vessels 24 hours a day, under any tidal condition. The Corps stated in its Reconnaissance Study in 2010 that Charleston is likely "the cheapest South Atlantic harbor to deepen to 50 feet."
"Each additional foot of depth in our harbor offers tremendous opportunities for businesses – in South Carolina and throughout the region – to compete in a rapidly expanding global marketplace," Stern said. "We believe this project offers the best value for a true post-Panamax harbor in the entire Southeast region, and we commend the Ways and Means Committee for recognizing the critical need for a deepened shipping channel in Charleston."
The full House of Representatives will take up the budget in early March.