A number of Charleston business and maritime leaders are expected to attend a press conference on the Charleston harbor Tuesday that will discuss the status on the port’s deepening project.
The Port of Charleston’s deepening study is in the feasibility study phase. State Ports Authority spokesman Byron Miller says that means–
“What are the environmental costs and the environmental and economic gains associated with future Charleston deepening? What’s the right number? What’s the right depth and what kind of improvements need to be made with widening the channels,” says Miller.
Charleston completed its last harbor deepening project in 2004, so Miller says some of what they learned can help them determine how best to deepen the port.
“The Corps takes great care to study all of the environmental, engineering and economic issues associated with any project like this. So, it’s going to take some time to do those necessary studies. Hopefully it won’t take too long,” says Miller.
Miller says the port deepening will have an impact on the city’s transportation and job creation.
“To reduce transportation costs we need to deepen the Charleston harbor. Ships are getting bigger and this project needs to move forward. Two, to do it as swiftly as possible. The Panama Canal is being expanded. A new set of locks on the Atlantic and Pacific side will open here in the next three years,” says Miller.
The Panama Canal will expand in 2014, which is expected to bring in larger cargo ships into the Port of Charleston–if expanded.
As for funding, Miller says they are moving forward–
“We are not stuck on pause anymore. We are out of the gates. There is no issue with funding with the feasibility study at this time. We do need to be in the president’s next budget in FY 13 (Fiscal Year 2013), which will be released early next year, which we hope is the case. In the meantime, we have signed an agreement with the Corps that will allow the Port’s Authority to accelerate its share with the funding,” says Miller.
The deepening project would deepen the Charleston port from 47 to 50 feet.
Port officials will also hold a public workshop Tuesday night where they can learn more about the deepening project.