Dredging scheduled to begin in December for Harbor Deepening Project

MOUNT PLEASANT, SC (WCSC) - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hopes to start dredging the Charleston Harbor by December, according to a project manager.

State and federal lawmakers gathered Monday morning for a progress report on the Charleston Harbor Deepening project.

The deepening project could rely heavily on what actions are taken by the Trump administration.

The project still needs major funding in order to deepen the harbor to allow bigger barges to come through.

Before leaving office, President Obama signed a law (the Water Infrastructure Improvement for the Nation Act) which will make it easier to deepen Charleston Harbor.

"To be fair, the Obama Administration was the first administration to talk about ports as an integral part of transportation infrastructure," said President and CEO Jim Newsome of the S.C. Ports Authority.

In President Donald Trump's inaugural address, he talked about the importance of infrastructure, saying, "We will build new roads and highways and bridges and airports and tunnels and railways all across our wonderful nation."

However, the new president never specifically talked about ports.

"I'm optimistic that President Trump gets it," said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. "He understands infrastructure is necessary to do business. If you want to make America great again, you've got to make America competitive, and deep ports in America make us competitive."

The plan to deepen the harbor to 52 feet would make Charleston the deepest harbor on the east coast.

Eastern ports are in a race to deepen to make room for bigger container ships. Bigger ships mean more money for our economy.

Right now construction all depends on the money.

$300 million has been set aside from the state General Assembly, however leaders feel the bulk of the project should be funded by the federal government.

"These are federal harbors," Newsome said. "The people of South Carolina should not be paying the lion's share of the cost to deepen the federal harbor."

Newsome estimates the total cost of the project at $509 million. Senator Graham said lawmakers are shooting for up to $300 million from the federal government.

Over the next few months the Corps of Engineers will focus on getting contracts prepared for the dredging process.

The 20-mile entrance to the channel is where a bulk of the work will take place.

The dredging in that area of the harbor is be done during a four-month period in the winter due to environmental factors.

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