Congressman James Clyburn, Senator Lindsey Graham, and Congressman Tim Scott today announced that the Port of Charleston will receive a federal commitment of $150,000 through the Army Corps of Engineers to begin a post-45 deepening study. Clyburn says, “This allows for the South Carolina Ports Authority to enter into a contractual agreement and move forward with the investigations phase in order to effectively compete with Southeastern ports as we prepare for expansion of the Panama Canal. ”
As of October 1, the Corps can expend $1.2 million in FY 2012. Clyburn says they will then have to convince the Corps to continue to fund the port with part of that. Clyburn says he feels certain that they will. The SC delegation will then have to seek about $300 million in federal funding over time. That money will be matched 50-50 by the state during the study and design phases. In the final phase, construction, the state will have to put in 60 percent. Graham says the entire process will take seven to eight years.
AUDIO: Clyburn, Graham explain to reporters how the funding works over time (1:52)Graham says the delegation will have to ensure that the next few federal budgets include money for the ports. It means, say Scott, Graham and Clyburn, that they will have to approach requests for that funding differently than they did with this initial study.
That is where Clyburn and Graham differ with Senator Jim DeMint on what is truly an “earmark.” DeMint has opposed any money to be set aside for state or district-specific projects, also termed “pork barrel” funding. Rep. Scott sidesteps that by calling the Charleston Port “America’s port,” while Graham says that any government plan that does not include the Charleston Port funding is “bad government.”
Clyburn says, “I don’t think that it should be classified as ‘pork’ because it is not in the president’s budget…There’s nothing pork-barrel about getting this study done for the Charleston Port and what it will mean for South Carolina.”
Sen. Graham says their congressional colleagues “got tired of talking to us about this.” Tim Scott says their persistence paid off.
Clyburn praised his Republican colleagues, saying “I am very pleased with the cooperation that you and I were able to develop in order to get the administration to see that this is a bi-partisan plan.”
Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the South Carolina Ports Authority said in a release today that port officials, elected leaders, workers and business leaders will certainly take a moment to celebrate before sharpening their focus on the task at hand.
“Our attention now turns to launching the study and securing funds in the FY2012 budget for the Corps to continue with their share of the work,” said Newsome.