A critical bill for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP) is moving forward in Congress.
The U. S. House of Representatives passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act 412-4 on Tuesday afternoon. The $12 billion bill authorizes funding for projects nationwide. It includes language important for the harbor deepening project, which is designed to prepare the Port of Savannah to accommodate larger ships.
After multiple delays, Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Curtis Foltz says he’s pleased to see progress.
“I think we’re all comforted, and our customers are comforted, that SHEP now looks like it’s finally going to get started,” he says.
Foltz says the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is already laying the groundwork for the project to begin.
“So that’s why we’re pretty confident that before the end of this calendar year, there’ll finally be dredges in the river starting to do this much-needed work,” Foltz says.
Foltz says he expects the U.S. Senate to approve the bill soon and send it to President Obama for his signature. The measure would increase the spending limit for the Savannah harbor deepening to $706 million.
The state's entire Congressional delegation has supported the harbor deepening.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal calls the House vote a “critical victory.” State leaders were disappointed when President Obama declined to recommend funding for the project in his budget earlier this year. Deal has said he wants to begin the project this year with state funds.