Mon., July 19, 2010 3:38pm (EDT)

Ports To Pay For Deeper Harbor
By Orlando Montoya
Updated: 4 years ago

SAVANNAH, Ga.  —  
A Georgia Ports Authority representative gives a tour of the Savannah harbor, with two container ships docked at the port, to explain the deepening project.  (photo Orlando Montoya)
A Georgia Ports Authority representative gives a tour of the Savannah harbor, with two container ships docked at the port, to explain the deepening project. (photo Orlando Montoya)
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says, it won't pay to deepen the Savannah harbor as much as state officials want.

Georgia wants the harbor deepened from its current 42 feet to 48 feet, to handle larger ships.

But in a much-anticipated report, the Corps of Engineers agreed only to 47 feet, saying the cost-benefit doesn't work for U.S. taxpayers at the lower depth.

"As the federal agency, we look at the entire nation," says Billy Birdwell, the Savannah District spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "So, we did not look at regional or local benefits outside of our authority."

The report isn't expected to derail the state's plans to go to 48 feet.

The state already has agreed to pay the difference, $20 million.

State officials say, with the extra foot, port workers get better efficiency and safety at low tides.

"With the additional foot increment, you're not as influenced by the tides and you're able to have more efficient operation coming up the river channel," says Eric Steavens, director of the intermodal transportation division at the Georgia Department of Transportation.

State lawmakers approved funding for just such a scenario during this year's legislative session.

All that's left now between the port and a lower depth is an environmental impact statement.

That's expected to be released sometime this fall.