The deepening of Charleston harbor was among the list of new projects included on the Army Corps of Engineers work plan for next budget year, according to a release Wednesday from the South Carolina State Ports Authority.
Ports officials say deepening the channel from 45 feet to 52 is needed for new, larger container vessels which have already begun calling along the East Coast. The Corps of Engineers has already deemed the project feasible and among its priorities, but has yet to set aside funds for the dredging.
“The significance of this funding for the timeline of our deepening project cannot be overstated – it is tremendous news for Charleston,” Ports Authority President Jim Newsome said in a statement. “By the end of the decade, we will achieve 52 feet of depth and be the deepest harbor on the East Coast, a depth advantage that will add significant capability in the Southeast, the fastest growing port region in the country.”
The $17.5 million was set aside as part of a spending plan submitted by the Trump Administration this week. While the money is still subject to approval by Congress, it does signal the Corps of Engineers considers Charleston to be a priority.
It’s only a fraction of the estimated $525 million cost for the overal project. South Carolina’s legislature has set aside $300 million to cover the state’s share of the project while the federal government is responsible for the remaining $225 million.
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a strong supporter of the project said he thinks South Carolina made the list because the state has already put forward its entire share of the cost. “In the Army Corps portion of the budget, I think the Trump Administration has drawn a line — if you want your harbor deepened you better be willing to put up money on the front end to prove your interest,” he said. “They want to reward innovative approaches like Charleston.”
The project is still on track to finish in 2021.