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Charleston Dredge Study Speeded Up

The timeline of a key study on the feasibility of deepening the Charleston, S.C. shipping channel from 45 to 50 feet has been suddenly cut in half, from 5 to 8 years to 4 years. The Corps has already estimated the total cost of dredging the additional 5 feet at $310 million over ten years.

After meetings on Capitol Hill, Lt. Col Jason A. Kirk, commander of the Charleston Engineer District, said he was committed to an 'aggressive' goal of completing the study by 2015. Kirk spoke at a Charleston signing ceremony for the contract for the study between the Corps and the State Ports Authority. About $300,000 has been committed so far to the study's costs, half each from the federal government and the SPA.

South Carolina's Congressional delegation has been divided on the project, with strong support coming from Sen. Lindsay Graham. Fellow Republican Sen. Jim DeMint has said he supports the project, but opposes using Congressional earmarks. Both senators were present at the signing.

Despite DeMint, who has been criticized by South Carolina voters for his stand, it looks as if earmarks may be necessary after all, assuming a positive assessment by the feasibility study. Jim Newsome, the SPA's chief executive officer, said, 'We have to get this funding every year, for multiple years, to make this a reality.'

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