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Monday, February 14, 2011 - 7:50am

Obama's Budget: No Money For Harbor Construction

Updated: 3 years ago.
Ships are getting larger and the Georgia Ports Authority would like the federal government to approve construction money to accommodate them with a deeper harbor. That money now faces a bigger hurdle to approval. (photo Georgia Ports Authority)

President Obama's budget doesn't include any funds for construction on the Savannah harbor deepening project.

But the port wasn't completely left out.

The White House budget unveiled Monday included $600,000 to continue the project's planning and engineering phase.

But that's a fraction of the $105 million Georgia officials had sought actually to begin construction.

Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Curtis Foltz calls it "disappointing."

"Congress and the Senate now will have their take at the budget and our delegation has been steadfast," Foltz says.

But having lawmakers insert the project into the budget could be complicated by a ban on so-called "earmarks."

Georgia officials contend that harbor deepening isn't an earmark because Congress previously approved it.

They consider the project important for jobs.

"We'll take what we can get and we'll go from there," says Governor Nathan Deal. "It signals that [President Obama] understands the importance of this project. You would not spend additional federal dollars on trying to complete the process for a project that you did not think is meritorious."

The goal was to have the harbor deepened to 48 feet by 2014 when the Panama Canal is scheduled to be open at that depth.

Port officials previously have said that Savannah's project could be finished by 2015.

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