A project to deepen the Charleston Harbor’s shipping channel to handle new larger ships has gotten funding to begin design work, the Army Corps of Engineers announced Wednesday.
It is the latest step in the decade-long effort to make Charleston the deepest harbor on the East Coast.
The Corps’ Charleston Post 45 announced $1.3 million in additional federal funding would allow pre-construction engineering and design to begin. The announcement follows last week’s US Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works Review Board approval of the project. The Corps of Engineers expects to sign the report in September and then present it to Congress, which will approve the project’s funding at a later date.
South Carolina ports officials say the dredging is necessary to handle larger “Post-Panamax” ships that are beginning to arrive along the East Coast. The influx of new ships is expected once work to deepen the Panama Canal finishes next April.
“The allocation of federal funding for the PED phase of our deepening project is tremendous,” SC Ports Authority Board Chairman Bill Stern said in a statement. “We are grateful to the leadership of state and federal elected officials and the Obama Administration for their united support of Charleston’s harbor deepening. The merit of our project and the significant benefits it will deliver for our state and nation are signified by the efforts of elected officials on all levels to ensure it progresses without delay.”
The money announced Wednesday is roughly a quarter of the estimated $4.5 million total costs for design work. A cost-share agreement divides those costs equally between federal and state government. South Carolina’s legislature has already set aside enough funds to cover the entire cost should Congress not act.
The Corps of Engineers began a four-year feasibility study for the harbor deepening in 2011. The project was one of the first to advance through a new “accelerated planning process” that tried to reduce the study from the usual 5-8 years.