A push from the White House to finish all the reviews on the Port of Charleston deepening project by 2015 has local officials excited.
"This announcement represents more good news for our deepening project, and demonstrates that the highest levels of our government understand the critical need to advance this project," Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA), said in a press release. "In just two years, we have gone from not being included in the President's Budget to now being a top priority. We are grateful for the Administration's commitment."
"It is just Excellent news," Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said. "And it is the result of very hard work on the parts of Jim Newsome, the Director of the SCPA and Sen. (Lindsey) Graham and Congressman (James) Clyburn."
"The fact is that what the president did is so wise," Riley continued. "For American manufacturers and exporters, the fact is that deepened ports able to handle modernized, post-PanaMax ships is essential for the American economy."
The White House's "We Can't Wait" initiative commits the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to completing all federal reviews of the Charleston Port project by September 2015. The Corps will be implementing an "aggressive planning schedule for the Charleston Harbor Feasibility Study that will examine the benefits and costs of deepening the Federal navigation channel for Charleston Harbor from its existing depth of 45 feet to a maximum of 50 feet to accommodate larger cargo vessels and other ships, ultimately facilitating a more efficient movement of goods. The study is expected to be complete within 3 years – much earlier than the over 10 year average," according to a White House press release.
Noting that more and more products are being exported through southeastern ports, Riley said the commitment to modernize Charleston Harbor will not only mean more jobs for the Lowcountry and the State of South Carolina but for the nation as a whole.
Along with Graham and Clyburn, Riley has played a significant role in keeping the Charleston Port project on the national radar. In both of his face-to-face meetings with Obama since 2010 Riley said he made sure to tell the president how important the project was.
"I felt with the ending of earmarks the harbor deepening would only happen through the support of the executive branch," Riley said. "The president talks about modernizing ports and airports and rail line and this project is right in that wheelhouse."
Riley said with the commitment to expedite federal reviews, the Charleston Port project will have several advantages, one of the major ones being that South Carolina legislators have already committed the state funds necessary for the project.
"The state has stepped up and put the funding there," Riley said. "So when the reviews are done it is read to go."