Georgia ports officials have agreed to lower the amount they want to deepen Savannah's harbor. The new depth is one of many changes in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer's final harbor deepening report issued today. The report took 15 years to complete and details every aspect of the project.
State officials say the ports of Savannah and Brunswick experienced record volumes during 2011. Georgia Ports Authority released figures showing, the ports handled 26.1 million tons of cargo, a 4.3% increase over the previous year. In Savannah, the Authority handled a record 2.95 million containers, a 3.5% increase over 2010.
Georgia ports officials are asking state lawmakers for $46 million for Savannah harbor deepening in the upcoming legislative session. But it's not the only item they'll be following. Georgia Ports Authority also is interested in the results of a year-long initiative to re-write laws affecting businesses.
It'll be another year before the Georgia Ports Authority can expect major funding for a long-sought Savannah harbor deepening project. The agency's director says, given the project and budget timelines, the best Georgia can hope for in the budget now before Congress is $600,000 requested by President Obama. That's enough to keep the project going but far less than the $100 million needed to start construction.
Savannah is now the nation's second-busiest port for exports. Ports officials highlighted numbers at the annual State of the Port address in Savannah. Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Curtis Foltz says, Savannah's export ranking behind only Los Angeles highlights the need for fast action on a long-sought harbor deepening project.
Georgia wants millions in federal dollars to deepen Savannah harbor. Georgia officials believe the project that has significance not just for the state, but for the whole nation. But other states want the money, too. Right now, however, the nation has no national strategy for determining where taxpayer dollars would be best spent.
President Obama's budget released this morning includes about $600,000 for the engineering phase of the Savannah harbor deepening. But that's only a fraction of the millions of dollars that state officials were seeking. State officials consider it the most important economic development project.
But the chief of Georgia's Ports Authority says, he's still frustrated by delays in the process to approve deepening the Savannah harbor. Curtis Foltz doesn't believe business will suffer as long as work is well underway by the time larger ships start sailing through the Panama Canal in 2014.
Highway safety advocates are concerned Georgia isn't doing enough to prepare for the thousands of new trucks expected on the roads in the coming years. Harbor expansion at the Port of Savannah alone could double truck traffic on Savannah-area roads.
The head of the Georgia Ports Authority says, Georgia won't be able to finish a critical harbor deepening project in time for an expansion at the Panama Canal. Larger ships will be sailing through the canal in 2014 and ports officials wanted Savannah's harbor deepened to accomodate larger ships before then.