The House committee shaping the state’s budget is setting aside $180 million for harbor deepening in a key move to modernize South Carolina’s harbor assets and boost the long-range economic outlook for the state.
The South Carolina House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Committee established the Harbor Deepening Reserve Fund and included $180 million in non-recurring funds to be used for deepening the state’s harbors, including the Charleston Post 45 Harbor Deepening Project.
“We are most appreciative of the members of House Ways and Means for their strong commitment to our state’s ports and the Charleston’s Harbor Deepening Project,” Bill Stern, chairman of the South Carolina Ports Authority, said. “By including $180 million for construction at this time, South Carolina shows that it stands firmly behind this project and is ready to usher it through to completion.”
The fund would be used to cover the state’s share of construction costs following the completion of the project’s feasibility study. The total deepening project cost is estimated at $300 million and 60 percent, or $180 million, would be funded by the state. Any expenditures from the fund would require approval by the South Carolina General Assembly through a joint resolution.
Charleston’s Harbor Deepening Project has built considerable momentum in recent weeks. Last week, $3.5 million toward the project’s feasibility study was included in the President’s Budget for fiscal year 2013. That allocation, along with the funds already included in the Corps’ Work Plan, means that the federal share of the feasibility study is more than halfway funded.
Already the deepest harbor in the region, Charleston’s deepening project would open the port to the biggest vessels 24 hours a day, under any tidal condition. The Corps stated in its Reconnaissance Study in 2010 that Charleston is likely “the cheapest South Atlantic harbor to deepen to 50 feet.”
“Each additional foot of depth in our harbor offers tremendous opportunities for businesses – in South Carolina and throughout the region – to compete in a rapidly expanding global marketplace,” Stern said. “We believe this project offers the best value for a true post-Panamax harbor in the entire Southeast region, and we commend the Ways and Means Committee for recognizing the critical need for a deepened shipping channel in Charleston.”
The full House of Representatives will take up the budget in early March.
Quotes from House Members:
“South Carolina is serious about deepening the Port of Charleston and making our state more competitive. Instead of using this year’s revenue surplus to grow government, we want to devote a significant portion of that surplus to funding our state’s share of the deepening project. In this year’s state budget, currently being debated in full committee this week, we are putting $180 million in a Harbor Deepening Reserve Fund, sending Washington a clear message that South Carolina is ready to move forward on this – now.”
Rep. Bobby Harrell, Speaker of the House of Representatives
“Our state depends on the Port of Charleston to attract investment and talent, evidenced by the many companies in the Upstate – such as Michelin – that do business across the globe each day using our seaports. This committee recognizes that the steps we take today ensure a bright future for South Carolina.”
Rep. Brian White, Chairman, Ways and Means Committee
“The future of South Carolina really is contingent upon the future of our port, and the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project is an essential part of that. By funding the state’s share of deepening now, we are showing that we as a state are serious about our competitive position relative to other ports in this region and the Port of Charleston’s role as a major player in global shipping.”
Rep. Jim Merrill, Vice Chairman, Review and Oversight Commission on the South Carolina Ports Authority
“The $180 million from the state for the deepening project marks an important step as we move to creating a true post-Panamax harbor in Charleston to serve the region. I look forward to seeing the study for Charleston’s deepening project completed as fast as possible so we can fire up the dredges.”
Rep. Chip Limehouse, Vice Chairman, Ways and Means Committee; Chairman, Charleston County Legislative Delegation
“Creating jobs is a huge priority for South Carolina. The success of our port drives our state’s economic success as we compete with other states for new business and investment to come to South Carolina.”
Rep. Gary Simrill, Chairman, Economic Development and Natural Resources Subcommittee
“Companies in our state do a phenomenal job exporting their goods to overseas markets. By modernizing our state’s harbors, we create more opportunities for South Carolinians to succeed in a globally competitive marketplace.”
Rep. Kenny Bingham, House Majority Leader; Member, Ways and Means Committee
“With the President including funds for Charleston’s deepening study just last week, we are obligated as a state to be ready to fund our part of the project’s construction. This ensures we can complete the deepening as quickly as possible.”
Rep. Harry Ott, House Minority Leader; Member, Ways and Means Committee
“I’ve seen first-hand how the port can impact a company’s decision to come to South Carolina. Bridgestone Firestone is locating in Aiken and bringing 850 jobs to the county, and it wouldn’t be possible without access to a competitive, deepwater port.”
Rep. Bill Clyburn, Chairman, Black Caucus; Member, Ways and Means Committee
World Maritime News Staff, February 27, 2012