The U.S. Senate voted to allow the project of dredging the Charleston harbor down to 52 feet on Thursday. The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) passed the Senate in a 95-3 vote with strong support on both sides of the aisle.
The WRDA bill now moves to the House where a team of South Carolina representatives say they have being working in tandem to move the project forward in meetings with House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA).
“The South Carolina Ports Authority’s ability to handle New Panamax vessels is critical to businesses large and small across our state and region and vital to the nation’s economy. We look forward to working with House Leadership, Chairman Shuster, and Ranking Member (Peter) DeFazio in order to optimize debate time on the floor and look forward to the passage of a WRDA bill this Congress,” said South Carolina Congressmen Mark Sanford, Joe Wilson, Jeff Duncan, Trey Gowdy, Mick Mulvaney, Jim Clyburn and Tom Rice in a joint statement.
The project needs authorization from both the U.S. House and Senate before crews can begin deepening the Charleston harbor to 52 feet in order to safely dock New Panamax vessels which are the largest container ships currently in use. Right now these ships can only enter the Charleston harbor during high tides.
The Army Corp. of Engineer’s $500 million project requires both state and federal funding. Last year the South Carolina legislature approved the state’s $100 million share of the funding.
“We are extremely pleased that the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project will now move forward to the House for final authorization. Congressional approval will allow project construction to begin, ensuring the Port remains on track to deliver all of the capabilities needed of a modern harbor by the end of the decade,” said Jim Newsome, SCPA president and CEO.
The harbor deepening was among those projects included on the White House’s “We Can’t Wait” infrastructure initiative