Georgia leaders scramble to keep Savannah port project on track

Georgia leaders readied plans to move forward with the deepening of Savannah’s harbor on Wednesday as they sought to determine why the Obama administration surprised - Republicans say betrayed - Georgia by not proposing funding for the dredging of the port this year and declaring the project not yet ready to go.

Gov. Nathan Deal said the state is exploring options to float the full cost of the $685 million project, with the federal government later reimbursing about $400 million, and ports officials insisted they expect the deepening to begin this year.

The finger-pointing that followed the news on Tuesday evolved into saber-rattling on Wednesday. Democrats, forced on the defensive, pressured the White House to change its position or deflected blame to Deal’s administration. Republicans appeared willing to risk a legal battle to move forward with the dredging.

U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution he had assurances from Vice President Joe Biden during a Feb. 21 conversation that funding was imminent. “Guys, this is going to get funded by the end of the month,” Biden said, in Chambliss’ retelling.

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