The dredge ship Padre Island of Great Lakes Dock and Dredge Co. works on deepening the channel of the Savannah River in March 2016. Image provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Trump budget seeks $93.6 million this year for deepening of Savannah port

The dredging project, which would take the waterway from a depth of 42 feet to 47 feet, will allow bigger container vessels to use the port that is the second-busiest on the East Coast and fourth-busiest in the nation. It has a total estimated cost of $1 billion and will be substantially completed by 2022.

Georgia U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler and U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, whose district includes Savannah, praised Trump for setting aside enough money to keep the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project on schedule.

“President Trump continues to make Georgia’s infrastructure projects a top priority by requesting full funding for SHEP for the fourth consecutive year,” Perdue said in a statement. “Finally, after 20 years of attempts to deepen the port five feet to accommodate the larger Post Panamax ships, the Trump Administration has SHEP on track for completion.”

The state of Georgia allocated $300 million to get the project underway, but it took years of lobbying for the federal government to begin chipping in sizable amounts.

Last year, the president’s budget proposal included $130.3 million for the project, which was praised as full funding. Before that, about $186 million in federal dollars had been allocated.

Most of Trump’s budget proposal, which includes cuts to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Medicaid program, is unlikely to gain traction in a fractured Congress that must sign off on government spending. However, bans on earmarks means that projects supervised by the Army Corps of Engineers such as the port deepening are usually funded at whatever level is in the proposed spending plan.

Last year, the Savannah project was slated for full funding even though the Trump administration proposed cutting the overall budget of the corps, which oversees planning, design and construction of public works projects such as canals and dams. This year, the entire agency’s budget is in line for a boost.

The corps said its 2021 budget put a priority on spending projects at harbors and inland waterways that experience the highest commercial traffic.

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