President Obama has set aside an additional $3.5 million toward deepening the Charleston harbor, according to several members of Congress.
The money is included in the President’s budget unveiled Monday. The $3.5 million is in addition to $2.5 million announced several weeks ago for the harbor project.
Even though the House and Senate are unlikely to pass the executive budget, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said having the study included is important because it means the South Carolina delegation would not have to worry about violating a ban on earmarks to get the Charleston harbor project funded in whatever version does pass Congress next year.
“It allows me to appropriate money for the study without it being considered an earmark,” Graham said in a conference call with reporters Monday, “Anything in the President’s budget would avoid being labeled an ‘earmark.’ An earmark is when Congress adds something to the budget.”
Rep. Jim Clyburn also mentioned the new funding in a tour of a Blythewood factory Monday.
South Carolina port officials have trying to advance the Charleston dredging so they can handle larger ships expected to come through the Panama Canal in the next two years. However, the Army Corps of Engineers must first conduct a 4-8 year feasibility study before that can happen. Funding for that study was not included in the executive budget for fiscal year 2012, although Graham and others were able to go around the Senate’s earmark ban by creating a special harbor trust fund account.
Graham says the president’s budget has no chance of passing Congress, but said he would work to make sure Charleston’s line item was kept in the final version of whatever eventually does pass this year.
The funding was included in the 2013 Corps budget even though the Obama Administration is requesting a 5.4 percent decrease overall from 2012. Graham said that was due to Charleston mayor Joe Riley meeting with Obama, Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) making it a priority in the House, and himself “raising holy hell” to get the project funded.
He said he expects the appropriation to stay intact as budget negotiations continue with the House of Representatives. “I think everybody in the House knows how important Charleston (is),” Graham said, “I’d hate to be a House member that told me ‘no.'”