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PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT SIGNED FOR SAVANNAH HARBOR PROJECT

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Georgia Department of Transportation and the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) signed the Project Partnership Agreement (PPA) in October to launch construction on the Savannah Harbor Expansion (SHEP).

The PPA will allow the Army Corps of Engineers to use state funds already appropriated by the legislature to begin construction while the Corps awaits congressional appropriations for the federal portion of the project. The state of Georgia has already set aside $209 million for its share of the deepening with another $35 million available in early 2015.

According to a study by the Corps, a deeper shipping channel allows larger and fewer ships to move the same amount of goods at a lower transportation cost. Funded by the federal government and the state of Georgia, the economic portion of the studies examined the characteristics of the future international shipping fleet, harbor commerce, current and future trade routes, and the capacity of the Garden City terminal on the Savannah River. The Corps’ study also indicated for each $1 invested in deepening, the U.S. will gain a benefit of $5.50.

The earliest actions in the deepening will focus on environmental mitigation and extending the shipping channel an additional seven miles into the Atlantic Ocean. The Corps of Engineers estimates the cost of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project will be approximately $706 million, including construction and environmental mitigation costs. The costs will be split approximately 60 percent federal and 40 percent state funds.

In 2013, federal litigation over environmental concerns against the proposed deepening of the harbor channel was eventually dismissed, after the parties involved accepted a settlement agreement.

Parties to the mediation included the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, the Savannah Riverkeeper, the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, the South Carolina Wildlife Federation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Georgia Ports Authority, and the South Carolina Savannah River Maritime Commission.

The environmental plan for the project, developed over a 16-year period involving a wide range of stakeholders, culminated with the settlement and an issuance of a water quality certification and a coastal zone consistency determination, readying the project for construction.

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