Congress Authorizes Charleston Harbor Deepening Project, Sends to President for Signature

Saturday the United States Senate passed S.612, the Water Infrastructure Improvement for the Nation Act (WIIN), which included Congressional authorization for the 52-foot Charleston Harbor Deepening Project.

“The passage of WIIN marks one of the most significant milestones in the history of the Port of Charleston,” said Jim Newsome, SCPA President and CEO. With this important step by Congress, we now turn our attention to inclusion in the President’s FY2018 budget, relative to the construction phase of the harbor deepening project. By the end of the decade, we will achieve 52 feet of depth and Charleston will be the deepest harbor on the East Coast. This depth advantage will add significant capability in the fastest growing port region in the U.S., the Southeast. This is vitally important for significant long-term volume growth and the deployment of large container ships. We are extremely grateful to many for their tireless efforts ensuring this bill moves forward; the leadership in the U.S. Congress, specifically Chairman Inhofe of Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Chairman Shuster of House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the South Carolina Congressional Delegation, Governor Nikki Haley, and the South Carolina Legislature. We look forward to a continued, productive partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project progresses. Last but certainly not least I would like to acknowledge the efforts of our port staff and specifically Barbara Melvin, our Senior Vice President of Operations and Terminals, who guided this process for us from its inception in 2010 through this authorization.”

The WIIN bill authorizes the Army Corps of Engineers Chief’s Report for the construction phase of the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project, ensuring the project can remain on schedule. By achieving 52 feet of depth, SCPA will be able to accommodate fully-loaded new-Panamax container ships without tidal restriction.

“South Carolina, the Southeastern region and our nation will enjoy the positive impacts of the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project for years to come,” said SCPA Board Chairman Pat McKinney. “Today’s Congressional authorization is the result of years of hard work and dedication by the South Carolina Congressional Delegation, Governor Haley, our state, local and federal partners, and SCPA leadership. This world-class deepening project ensures SCPA will remain a competitive, growing port well into the future.”

The Charleston Harbor Deepening Project was formally recommended for Congressional authorization in January with the issuance of the Record of Decision by the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works). The project has moved expeditiously through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers SMART Planning process and received strong support by all levels of government. In 2012 the S.C. General Assembly set aside $300 million for the state share of the project, and it was expedited by the Administration as a “We Can’t Wait” initiative. Upon completion, the project will deepen the Charleston Harbor to 54 feet at the entrance channel and 52 feet in the harbor.

The WIIN Act, formerly known as the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), passed the Senate by a vote of 78-21 and the House by a vote of 360-61. It now moves to the President’s desk for signature.

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