CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster joined the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to announce the start of the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project Monday afternoon.
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The award, officially made on Thursday, is for $213 million to the Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co., LLC for the removal of 6 million cubic yards of material from the entrance channel. An earlier contract worth $47 million was awarded on Sept. 7.
The project will lower the more-than-20-mile long Charleston Harbor Entrance Channel from its current 45 feet to a newly-authorized depth of 54 feet, according to a release from the U.S. Army.
"This multi-year contract, in conjunction with the contract awarded in September, provides for the construction work for the entrance channel to be completed without the potential for delays," South Carolina Ports Authority President and CEO Jim Newsome said.
The $213 million contract is the largest ever made by the Charleston District, he said.
"The award of the second contract for the Entrance Channel keeps us in line with our schedule, which will be the most time-consuming phase of the project," District Commander Lt. Col. Jeffrey Palazzini said. "The Charleston District team has been working diligently on ensuring we keep the project schedule on track so that the entire project remains on time and on budget."
The project's first dredge in the entrance channel is expected to begin in February, officials said. It could take between 40 and 76 months, or more than six years, to complete. The timetable will depend on several factors, including funding, weather and mechanical issues.
McMaster praised the Port of Charleston, calling it one of the best success stories anywhere.
"Just the impact of this port on this state is nothing short of fantastic," McMaster said, adding that the port affects some 187,000 jobs in the state and provides approximately 10 percent of the state's gross annual product.
"In the last few years I've been meeting with a number of companies, all names that you've heard of, from all over the world and they're looking at South Carolina," McMaster said. "They're all interested in a number of things including the colleges, the research universities, but they all want to know about the port."
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers anticipates the project would cost $529 million to complete, Newsome with SC Ports Authority said. $270 million is still needed for the project.
"That's $90 million a year. If you do the math we need to finish this in three years so our congressional delegation has got its work cut out for it," Newsome said. "The governor, we're very fortunate, Gov. McMaster has an excellent relationship with the Trump administration because the name of the game is being in the president's budget. You don't get federal money if you're not in the president's budget."
The project would make Charleston Harbor the deepest on the east coast.