News Releases

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Georgia Congressional Delegation Urges Administration to Fully Fund Savannah Harbor Expansion Project

Upon completion, port expansion will deliver strong return on taxpayers' investment

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., along with the entire Georgia congressional delegation, today called on the administration to include critical funding for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP) in the president’s fiscal year 2019 budget request.

In their letter to Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, the congressional delegation called for the inclusion of at least $100 million in the president’s budget to ensure the project remains on schedule, avoids cost overruns and meets the federal government’s project partnership agreement with the state of Georgia.

“Upon completion, [SHEP] will deliver the highest benefit-to-cost ratio of any pending deep-draft project in the nation (7.3 to 1) and produce annual economic benefits to the nation of $282 million,” the letter states.

The letter goes on to note that the state of Georgia has invested nearly $1 billion in infrastructure over the past decade to support the Port of Savannah and that $2 billion is planned for the next 10 years.

“All of this work and all of this money cannot deliver any new value to the taxpayers and our national economic growth until the channel construction is completed,” the letter continues. “Continued funding of the project at the [fiscal year] 2018 level of $50 million annually is estimated to delay the project for five years and cost an additional $56 million due to inflation while generating an irretrievable, cumulative loss of $1.4 billion in annual economic benefits.”

The delegation further argues that when prioritizing taxpayer dollars, “In the case of SHEP, we respectfully submit that we have a project that is fully underway, that will deliver proven benefits and has maximum matching support from the local sponsor.”

A copy of the letter from Sens. Isakson and David Perdue, R-Ga., along with along with U.S. Reps. Earl L. “Buddy” Carter, R-Ga.-01, Sanford Bishop, D-Ga.-02, Drew Ferguson, R-Ga.-03, Hank Johnson, D-Ga.-04, John Lewis, D-Ga.-05, Karen Handel, R-Ga.-06, Rob Woodall, R-Ga.-07, Austin Scott, R-Ga.-08, Doug Collins, R-Ga.-09, Jody Hice, R-Ga.-10, Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga.-11, Rick Allen, R-Ga.-12, David Scott, D-Ga.-13, and Tom Graves, R-Ga.-14, to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney is available here.

Background:

The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project was authorized in the Water Resources and Development Act of 1999 to deepen the Savannah River from its current 42-foot depth to as much as 47 feet. The project is being undertaken in anticipation of an expansion of the Panama Canal that will increase the maximum draft of vessels travelling to and from the East Coast from 39.5 feet to as much as 50 feet.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that the harbor deepening project will bring $282 million in annual net benefits to the United States. 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.

The federal government has a role in funding this project because the U.S. Constitution gives authority over navigable waters. If the federal government allots less than $80-$100 million annually for the duration of the project, it cannot be completed on time, and the resulting delays could ultimately cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

Dredging for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project began on Sept. 14, 2015.

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