The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee has refused to approve Senator Lindsey Graham’s proposal to secure $400,000 earmarked for a study concerning the need for deepening the Port of Charleston. Even though officials say the dredging is needed to improve the state’s economy, Graham’s colleague, Republican Senator Jim DeMint, pledged his opposition to that and all earmarks.
Berkeley County Senator Larry Grooms, who works closely with port development, says he doesn’t like earmarks either, but says this project is extremely important and makes good sense.
Grooms says Congress may put new project spending on hold this year anyway, but he says support of the modest earmark is important for the dredging to happen.
It’s not necessarily the money. It’s the authorization from Congress to the Army Corps of Engineers to begin the process. Even if the state came up with the $400,000, that doesn’t move the Corps of Engineers to consider Charleston for harbor dredging.
Grooms says deepening the Port of Charleston would be a better investment than a similar dredging in the Savannah River or in Virginia because it would be cheaper for the federal government. Grooms says deepening the Savannah River could cost $600 million. He says working on the Charleston port instead would save the government up to $500 million.
Grooms says with the widening of the Panama Canal, a dramatic shift in shipping patterns is about to take place on the East Coast and South Carolina could benefit from that with a deeper port.
You’re going to see an increase upwards of 70 percent more container volume. Where those containers come into the United States is important, not just for South Carolina but for the entire region. In order to accommodate the larger ships some dredging will need to be done.
Grooms says this is no small matter. He insists deepening the Charleston port to 50 feet would help businesses across South Carolina. He says one in five South Carolinians have jobs tied to the Charleston port, directly or indirectly.