Plan to deepen Charleston Harbor running on schedule

Plan to deepen Charleston harbor right on schedule

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Deepening Charleston Harbor from 45 to 50 feet will cost $300-million. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it's worth the hefty price tag.

"The value of the Charleston Harbor to our nation is hundreds-of-thousands of jobs," says Lieutenant Ed Chamberlayne, the lead on the project. "There's over 260,000 jobs estimated that benefit from Charleston harbor."

The project is still in the study phase and has been since 2011 as environmentalists, biologists, and economists weigh in on the impact of deepening, which will allow larger ships to come through.

Officials say the study will be completed in two years and within budget.

"We're still spending less than $13-million and four years to do a study, but we have limited our appetite to make sure we can answer the hard questions and make that ultimate recommendation to Congress," explains Chamberlayne.

A recommendation that will tout the harbor's value in commerce and need to accommodate large-scale economies.

"We're seeing ships carrying an excess of 9,000 containers on board," says Allison Skipper, the spokesperson for the South Carolina Ports Authority. "These ships are 1100 feet long or more. They're already coming here, and we know that will accelerate with the expansion of the Panama Canal in a couple years."

Chamberlayne says sequestration has not slowed them down. He says the President has made the project a priority.

"This study effort has not been impacted, and we do not foresee it to be impacted by it. It is part of the president's administration "We Can't Wait" initiative."

If Congress ultimately approves the deepening after the study is completed, officials say between design and construction, the process will take five to six years.

The last time the harbor was deepened, from 40 to 45 feet, was between 2004 and 2006.