Sen. Graham eyes funding bill to help deepen East coast ports

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Army Corps of Engineers in Charleston say completing the harbor deepening study is it's number one priority. However, staying on pace for their summer 2014 deadline will be a 'challenge' according to Lt. Col Ed Chamberlayne.

"There's a possibility it can be delayed, yes," said Chamberlayne. "Right now I don't know by how much if at all."

Currently the study to see if Charleston's harbor can be deepened to 50 feet is on schedule but in late April, Chamberlayne says they will run into some obstacles.

The Lt. Col says most Federal Army Corps employees will be furloughed, meaning their work week will be cut down to four days. That will take place during the biggest portion of the work effort to finish the study.

"It is so hard to deepen ports," said South Carolina Senior U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham.

Graham was present in the Lowcountry to hear the harbor study update. He says even though sequestration won't help the study move faster, he's drafting a bill to make it easier for East coast ports to go deeper.

"This bill changes the way we deepen ports and it sets aside money to make sure they're will be money there available to us," said Graham to a full room of State Port employees.

Graham says the money for the funding bill will have to come from outside the President's budget.

"We want to create a pot of money for construction, for design and for studies," said the Senator. "There will be a $9 billion pot of money to allow ports along the East coast to go deeper based on merit."

Judging ports with the amount of business they do as well as the population area they serve will decide how much money each area receives.

Graham says he will attempt to pass this bill as apart of a larger item later this year.

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