A new agreement between the state Ports Authority and the Army Corps of Engineers will officially launch the construction phase of the $529 million Charleston Harbor deepening project.
The Project Partnership Agreement announced Wednesday finalizes the responsibilities between the Ports Authority — which will sponsor the deepening– and the Corps, which will oversee the work. 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.
“We’re excited to begin the construction phase of the Post 45 project,” ACE Charleston District commander Lt. Col. Jeffrey Palazzini said in a release. “The signing of the PPA allows us to stay on track with our budget and timeline for eventually deepening the federal channel of Charleston Harbor to 52 feet.”
The PPA allows the Corps of Engineers to receive funding from the Ports Authority and begin spending federal funds allocated by the fiscal year 2017 work plan. So far, the federal government has set aside $17 million for the project’s first year. Under the agreement, the federal government will eventually cover $330 million of the project’s cost, while South Carolina has already set aside $199 million for its share.
Work on the project will take between four to seven years. Project Manager Holly Carpenter said the timeline depends on funding and harbor conditions. “We’re doing everything we can to continue moving it along in an expedited manner,” she told South Carolina Radio Network. “As we start to award the first few construction contracts… we will have a much better idea of where we stand.”
The $17.5 million was set aside as part of a spending plan submitted by the Trump Administration in May. While the money is still subject to approval by Congress, it does signal the Corps of Engineers considers Charleston to be a priority.
Gov. Henry McMaster released his own statement after the announcement. “This agreement marks an important breakthrough for South Carolina’s economic engine and for the future prosperity of our entire state,” he said. “Our ports system is one of the greatest assets we have in South Carolina that sets us apart, and with the construction phase of the Charleston harbor deepening project beginning, the number of opportunities for South Carolinians will continue to grow.”