Meghan Hughes (202-224-5972) or Kevin Bishop (864-250-1417)WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made this statement after the conclusion of the Senate Appropriations Committee markup of the Energy and Water appropriations bill.
The committee did not include a $400,000 earmark request for the Port of Charleston to study deepening Charleston Harbor. The bill will now be sent to the full Senate.
“I will continue to push for the inclusion of this very important congressional directive,” said Graham. “The earmark is a relatively small dollar amount in a nearly $3 trillion federal budget. However, it carries huge importance for the future of the Port of Charleston and thousands of jobs in our state.”
Graham noted the Port is responsible for an estimated 260,800 jobs in South Carolina, $11.8 billion in wages, and $1.5 billion in state and local taxes.
“A lot has been said and written about earmark abuse and the need for reform,” said Graham. “I agree and have joined with Senator DeMint, McCain and others to bring about real reform including greater transparency. However, the decision as to whether or not the Corps of Engineers will be directed to study how to deepen Charleston Harbor must be made now.”
“We literally have tens of thousands of jobs across South Carolina and millions of dollars in business riding on this decision,” said Graham. “We have no recourse. If we don’t get this done now, the impact on businesses in our state will be devastating.”
The harbor was last widened from a depth of 40 feet to 45 feet in 2004. The State Ports Authority and its customers need it deeper to meet the demands of new, larger cargo ships that are due to come through the Panama Canal in 2014.
Graham noted that because of certain sequencing issues related to the Army Corps of Engineers and how they handle dredging projects, if Charleston does not receive the earmark this year, it will put the port at a competitive disadvantage. Charleston’s East Coast competitors -- Savannah, Norfolk, Miami, Wilmington, and New York -- will have a leg-up as they have already secured study funding in this legislation where Charleston is currently being disregarded.
“The State Ports Authority cannot start the study because they do not have the legal authority to do so,” said Graham. “Only the Army Corps has the authority. The $400,000 appropriation is essential this year to ensure we do not fall behind our competitors. It’s important we give them the green light.”
“I will continue to do my part to ensure the port receives the ongoing funding it needs today and in the future to remain competitive and viable in the years ahead,” said Graham.