Tate Zeigler (202-224-5972) or Kevin Bishop (864-250-1417)WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) said provisions he introduced have been included in the year-end spending bill Congress will soon debate. The provisions are a major breakthrough which will allow Charleston to be eligible for additional federal funding to continue its harbor deepening study.
“Under the old system, South Carolina was shut out because we were not included in the President’s 2012 budget,” said Graham. “Now, as a result of my language, Charleston will be eligible to receive federal funding to continue our deepening study. Until the study is complete we cannot transition into actual construction on deepening the harbor. We essentially had no chance to compete for funding. These changes in federal law will give us the opportunity to move forward.”
Earlier this week the Army Corp of Engineers said they expected the harbor deepening process to not be completed until 2024. Graham agreed with the South Carolina State Ports Authority President and CEO Jim Newsome who said the 2024 timeline is too slow and pledged to work with the Army Corps and Ports Authority to expedite the process.
“Deepening Charleston Harbor is the number-one issue for South Carolina’s economy,” said Graham, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “The Port of Charleston is our economic gateway to the world. That’s why I have long believed that when it comes to deepening Charleston Harbor, failure is simply not an option.”
Under the provision affecting Charleston Harbor Deepening:
Funding for ongoing Army Corp of Engineer projects, specifically coastal and deep draft studies -- which were not included in the President’s budget submission to Congress -- will be eligible to receive up to $10 million. The federal share of the Charleston Harbor deepening study, which will be matched by the state, is expected to cost approximately $4.2 million in the next fiscal year. Priority in allocating these funds are given to completing or accelerating ongoing studies that will enhance economic development, job growth and international competitiveness.
“Today, about one out of every five jobs in South Carolina is tied – directly and indirectly – to the operation of the Port,” said Graham. “Deepening the port will allow us to keep these jobs in our state and also create more jobs in the future. We are moving to a more merit-based approach to port deepening and I’m confident Charleston will fare well under that new standard. Charleston port deepening offers the taxpayer the biggest bang for their buck.”
Graham also thanked Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and all the members of the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee for their assistance in agreeing to push forward with this important change in committee.
“It would not have been possible without bipartisan cooperation,” said Graham. “I’m proud that other members of the committee listened to the concerns that were raised and allowed us to come up with a proposal to allow port studies like Charleston to move forward.”
Charleston was also fully funded to maintain its current operations which maximizes full utilization of the harbor. $13,569,000 was allocated for the Charleston Harbor and $5,301,000 was allocated for the Cooper River, Charleston Harbor.
Graham noted that similar provisions he secured in the bill will also have positive impact on South Carolina’s ports like Georgetown, the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and coastal communities which continue to face erosion problems. They will be eligible for funding in various areas including a $74 million account for commercial harbor maintenance, $39.5 million for shore protection, $30 million for small harbor maintenance, $74 million for navigation, and $30 million for inland waterways.
Graham was also able to include a provision that directs the Institute for Water Resources to submit to the Senate and House Committees on Appropriations within 180 days of enactment of this act a report on how the Congress should address the critical need for additional port and inland waterway modernization to accommodate post-Panamax vessels.
“It’s imperative that we have a national vision if we are going to implement our national goal of doubling exports by 2015,” concluded Graham.