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Wednesday, November 13, 2013 - 1:28pm

State Of The Ports: Governor Deal Opens Georgia’s Wallet

Governor Nathan Deal said Wednesday he has set aside the final $35 million needed from the state to deepen the Savannah harbor.

Deal made the announcement at a State of the Ports luncheon hosted by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

“I am pleased to tell everybody today that there will be an additional $35 million in the budget that I’ll present to the General Assembly to add to the $231 million that the state has already set aside,” Deal said.

The Governor said he feels the federal money will come through as promised because federal officials have signaled they support the harbor deepening project.

“We will all be exerted pressure to get the federal government again to fund their cost of the project,” Deal added. “60 to 70 percent of the cost is anticipated to be borne by the federal government, but we know that they’re slow sometimes. The next thing we are asking permission to do from the Corps of Engineers is to begin to spend the state’s money so we can start the project and then we’ll let the federal government catch up.”

The estimated cost for the project is $652 million.

Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director, Curtis Foltz said the announcement was “good news.”

“Until we have the river expanded, we can’t bring the larger ships in,” Foltz explained. “Even though we have continued to be the fastest growing port in the nation for about a decade, those advantages are going to go away if we can’t get this deeper water and service larger ships.”

Deal said moving quickly is a priority because the Panama Canal expansion will be complete in 2015, clearing the way for larger ships to come to the port of Savannah. The Governor explained that shipping companies will use other harbors if Savannah does not fit into their business plans.

“It’s not just a matter of maintaining what we have,” said Deal. “It’s a matter of maybe losing what we have and also the possibility of being able to gain more if we do it all correctly.”

Deal will present his budget to the General Assembly when it convenes in January.