President’s budget set to fund study to deepen Charleston Harbor

President’s budget set to fund study to deepen Charleston Harbor
Published: Mar. 6, 2014 at 11:50 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The President's budget could help finish a study on whether to deepen Charleston Harbor.

For 140 years the Army Corps of Engineers has kept the Charleston harbor at a depth where ships could get in and out of the busy channel.

A local councilman says deepening the harbor will keep the state economy afloat.

North Charleston Councilman Ron Brinson said, "It supports jobs, at the end of the day, that's what the economy is all about."

Brinson understands the pulse of the port. He was once in charge of the port of New Orleans.

"Ships are getting bigger; we're going to see fewer ships but bigger ships," said Brinson.

Brian Williams also has a feel for that growth.

"That's one of the reasons why we're doing this study," said Williams.

He's tasked with managing the multi-million dollar Charleston Harbor deepening project.

Williams said, "The ships that came into Charleston 5 years ago are not the ships coming here today."

If President Obama's budget is approved, the corps will have $695,000 to finish its 4 year long study.

Williams said, "We're spending the rest of the winter, into the spring and into the summer putting the finishing touches on the report that we're going to release to the public."

Williams and his crew have been doing tests in the harbor to figure out if there are enough benefits to deepen.

"So we're not going into this thinking that we have already got the answer and then need to justify it. We're going through, putting all the details into and those details are then going to tell us what the answer is," said Williams.

It could be deepened by up to 7 feet.

Williams said, "We're looking at a depth of 48, 50 and 52 feet."

Councilman Brinson says if the harbor isn't deepened, it will sink a major lifeline of the state's economy.

Brinson said, "We will have the competitive advantage that the port will need to compete with the Savannahs, the Jacksonvilles, the Norfolks and the Miamis."

The Army Corps of Engineers say they managed to do the study in 4 years instead of 8 and that saved taxpayers 7 million dollars.

If lawmakers approve the President's budget, the corps expects to have the study ready for congress and the public to revie by fall of 2015.

The budget also sets aside 13 million to maintain the current depth of 45 feet.

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