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Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 1:53pm

Harbor Deepening Waits For Federal Funds

Gov. Nathan Deal has included $50 million in this year’s state budget for the Savannah harbor deepening project. Port officials told lawmakers Wednesday the port’s strong performance in 2012 reaffirms the need for the project.

State officials want to deepen the port so it can accommodate larger ships coming through the Panama Canal.

At budget hearings, Curtis Foltz who heads the Georgia Ports Authority said the Panama Canal deepening is about a year behind.

That means the larger ships won’t be coming through until mid-2015. But he said there’s no better time than now to begin the digging work for the Savannah project.

“It was a phenomenal year, a record year on all accounts. And considering we are still in a very poor economic recovery both globally and in the U.S., it was a very good year for us,” said Foltz.

He said the state’s ports outperform other U.S. ports, many of which haven’t recovered from the Recession.

The state has the approvals it needs for the port expansion. Officials are waiting for President Obama to insert an earmark for the remainder of the fund in the federal budget.