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Tuesday, April 6, 2010 - 10:30am

Senators Seek $105 Million For Ports

Georgia's two U.S. Senators are seeking construction money for a long-sought project to deepen the Savannah habor.

The project has received federal funds for planning in a lengthy harbor deepening process, but this would be the first money for construction.

The $105 million request comes from Senators Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss.

They want the Senate to include the deepening in next year's federal budget.

"The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project is critical to our state’s economic future," Isakson writes. "The Port of Savannah must maintain its position as a gateway for business to Georgia."

Georgia Ports Authority spokesman Robert Morris says, this would be an earmark, but not unusual.

"It is the way in which the major Army Corp of Engineers infrastructure projects are funded," Morris says.

The state has approved its $68 million share of construction costs.

If all goes as planned, work could begin next year.

"Most of the studies that still need to be completed deal mostly with the economic impact," Morris says. "And those studies are due to be released this June or July."

Georgia officials see harbor deepening as key to keeping the Savannah port competitive for when larger ships pass through the Panama Canal in 2014

Chambliss defends his use of earmarks, saying it's pennies compared to the federal deficit.

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