A new bipartisan deal in Congress allocates nearly a half billion dollars to East Coast port projects.
Georgia and South Carolina lawmakers applauded the agreement -- part of a larger year-end federal spending bill.
But funding to complete Savannah's harbor expansion isn't guaranteed.
The measure directs the US Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a study to determine which port projects would provide the best return for taxpayers.
U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss says, Savannah's proposed harbor expansion is not explicitly funded.
"We're going to be in competition," Chambliss says. "But we have done the work necessary to put us in a position of being ready to get this money ahead of a lot of other ports."
Congress previously allocated such funds through earmarks, a recently banned practice.
Dave Kyler of the Center for a Sustainable Coast says, the merit-based approach could backfire on lawmakers who pushed it.
"I doubt if any of the ports in South Carolina or Georgia would qualify compared with the conditions and land-side trans-shipment opportunities in other major ports," Kyler says.
Chambliss says, he's confident Savannah harbor deepening will prove itself worthy of federal dollars because the project has been studied for a decade.
East Coast states are seeking federal dollars to prepare their ports for larger ships.
Georgia wants about $400 million for the Savannah port.