After 15 years of studies, lawsuits and bureaucratic delays, on Oct. 8, state and federal officials signed the final paperwork necessary for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project to begin, ensuring that larger cargo ships arriving via the soon-to-be-expanded Panama Canal can reach the state’s busy port. The deepening project is critical to ensure the continued growth of the Savannah Harbor and the forest industry: Georgia led all other states in the export of kraft paper/paperboard and chemical woodpulp (dissolving grade) in 2013.
The cost-sharing agreement allows the harbor deepening, which is a federal construction project, to begin with state funding. Governor Deal and the Legislature have authorized $266 million in anticipation of Washington funding its 60 percent share of the $706 million project.
“Georgia and its congressional delegation have fought long and hard to see this project through to fruition – a project that is vitally important for economic development and job creation not only in the Southeast, but nationally as well,” Governor Deal said in a press release on Oct. 8. “I’ve said time and again that ‘it’s time to start moving dirt,’ and now we can.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released the competitive bidding contracts prepared for the early actions to deepen the harbor. It estimates that the project will bring $174 million in annual net benefits to the U.S., and, for the Post-Panamax II vessels, the extra five feet of depth will allow for an additional 3,600 cargo containers in each transit, an increase of 78 percent.