CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District announced a proposal Tuesday to deepen the Charleston Harbor from 45 to 52 feet.
The results of the study are considered a "significant milestone for the feasibility study," according to the U.S. Army Corps, the agency who conducted the port navigation study.
According to the release, the cost would be shared between the federal government and the SC State Ports Authority.
The government is expecting to pay $166 million and the SCSPA $343 million.
Current estimates have the project costing $510 million according to the SC State Ports Authority CEO and President, Jim Newsome.
According to the report, key benefits of the proposal are safety, support of larger container ships, and fewer delays for those ships as they travel through the channel.
Officials with the Army Corps of Engineers say larger container ships and deeper-draft vessels are now a trend in the industry.
The SC Ports Authority says the harbor deepening is needed to keep the Charleston port competitive, especially with the ongoing expansion of the Panama Canal.
Officials with the Army Corps of Engineers are expecting to finish the next and final phase of the study by September, 2015.
Newsome says the deepening project could by the end of the decade.
Big Business for the Port of Charleston
Ports Authority officials say 260,800 jobs in the state are generated by the port.
The deepening is expected to enhance the $45 billion annual economic impact of port activity.
Tuesday's recommendation to deepen the harbor to 52 feet could mean a lot more business for South Carolina.
Elizabeth Brabham said, "At last."
Brabham, manager of the Wando Trucking Company has been waiting for the harbor deepening recommendation.
She said, "We really need it."
Brabham is hoping the constant rumbling of trucks outside her office will only increase.
"Wando Trucking Company specializes in containers," said Brabham.
Containers holding items the community uses everyday come from massive ships traveling through the Charleston Harbor.
It's like clockwork. The boxes are loaded on trucks and transported throughout the state.
The trucking expert of more than 3 decades says the harbor is their lifeline.
"It's something that could make us competitive," said Brabham.
Brabham says deepening it to 52 feet will keep the trucks rolling in.
"We'll be able to bring in more cargo," said Brabham.
The recommendation by the Army Corps of Engineers to deepen the harbor focused on the economic and environmental effects.
Brian Williams, project manager of the study said, "Reduce transportation cost. That's what this study is about, is reducing the transportation cost for the goods that come in and out of the Charleston Harbor."
In 2011, The Army Corps of Engineers and the State Ports Authority agreed to share the cost of the study.
Their findings show that dredging the harbor from 45 to 52 feet would make it the deepest on the East Coast.
Ports Authority President and CEO Jim Newsome says Charleston needs the additional 7 feet to handle the largest container ships in the world.
Newsome said, "A ship's got to finish up loading in the Southeast, so it will be the heaviest when it departs the Southeast port, thereby we need the deepest harbor in the Southeast."
Newsome says the success of the port affects everyone across the state.
"The port is an asset to attracting new businesses here and to grow jobs, and for people to have a better standard of living. It's that fundamental," said Newsome.
Public comment on the results of the study will be held October 21st at the Citadel's Alumni Center. The meeting will go from 5:30 to 8:30pm.