SAVANNAH —- Gov. Nathan Deal said Friday he supports providing additional state resources to finish the deepening of the Savannah River, and also said he still expects the federal government to fund its share of the nearly $1 billion project.
Speaking to reporters after a welcoming ceremony for the largest container ship to ever call on an East Coast port, Deal said completing the project is vital to keeping the port competitive and to jobs across the state.
“I support whatever is going to be necessary to complete this project in a timely fashion and if that’s what it takes I think the citizens, and the voters and the elected representatives in the General Assembly will be willing to do that extra part,” Deal said.
The Savannah River deepening took a hit last month when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimated its cost would climb 38 percent to $973 million and take two years longer to finish because rising dredging costs and other complications.
The federal government has pledged to fund 75 percent of the project, which got started when the state put $266 million toward the initiative. The state’s share of the project could rise by about $67 million, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last month.
“We are going to continue to ask the federal government to live up to their 75 percent share,” Deal said. “It’s a cooperative effort and we’re going to keep it that way.”
The governor said he is hopeful President Donald Trump will increase proposed federal funding of $47 million recommended by the Obama administration. He also said he is “pleasantly pleased” that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is spearheading the dredging, has un-allocated funding for “high priority” projects. Deal said the Savannah River deepening would qualify.
During the economic downturn, the federal government funded infrastructure projects that were “shovel-ready” to help stimulate the economy, Deal said.
“We’re not only shovel-ready, we are dredge-ready,” Deal said. “We have dredges in operation. We just need to finish it. I think we’re going to get great cooperation from the Corps of Engineers. They’ve been great partners, by the way, to getting to this point.”
A study by the corps also found the economic benefits to the project had grown, meaning the payback to the American economy will come quicker.
The corps now projects a net annual benefit to the national economy of $282 million a year, up from $174 million each year.
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