The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it is on schedule as the agency nearly reaches the halfway point for a feasibility study into deepening the Charleston harbor.
“The bottom line is that we’re on track to still complete the study by September 2015,” Lt. Colonel Ed Chamberlayne, who leads the Corps’ Charleston district, said, “We’re still operating within our budget of something less than $13 million.”
He said officials hope to draft their recommendation by summer 2014. That recommendation would then be published in the summer and undergo a year of public scrutiny before being finalized in September 2015.
South Carolina and the federal government have entered a cost-sharing agreement for both the study and the dredging that would follow. South Carolina’s legislature also set aside $300 million in a reserve fund in case the federal money does not come through. Officials hope to complete the entire project by 2020 under the current schedule.
Chamberlayne said the study will not be affected by the upcoming sequester cuts expected at the Defense Department this summer because it is classified as a “public works” project.
Both the Corps and South Carolina ports officials are requesting the harbor deepening in order to handle new, larger container ships that are beginning to arrive on the East Coast. The harbor is currently 45 feet deep, but ports officials want to dredge down to 50 feet. The feasibility study is considering the environmental impact and cost, along with any alternative plans.