December 20, 2019

Congress, President Trump approve $138 million for Charleston Harbor Deepening Project

Charleston Harbor is on track to have a depth of 52 feet in 2021. (Photo/SCPA)

CHARLESTON, SC -- DEC. 20, 2019 -- The Charleston Harbor Deepening Project reached a monumental milestone today with President Donald Trump signing the FY2020 Energy and Water Appropriations bill into law, officially greenlighting $138 million for the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project.

President Trump included the $138 million in the President's Fiscal Year 2020 budget earlier this year, making the project eligible for direct appropriations by Congress for the first time through the Energy and Water Appropriations bill.

Both the Senate and the House voted to approve the appropriations bill this week as part of the FY2020 funding package, and President Donald Trump signed it into law today.

This enormous step forward means the project is fully funded to completion and on track to achieve a 52-foot depth in 2021.

"This huge infusion of federal funding reflects the importance of ensuring South Carolina has a deep harbor capable of handling mega container ships," S.C. Ports Authority Board Chairman Bill Stern said. "We are grateful to the Trump Administration for recognizing the value a 52-foot depth in Charleston Harbor brings to the Southeast. Thank you to our Congressional delegation, Governor McMaster, and the state and local leaders who have supported this critical project and worked tirelessly to complete it."

S.C. Ports Authority President and CEO Jim Newsome said a 52-foot deep harbor will accommodate 19,000 twenty-foot equivalent container unit (TEU) vessels drafting 50 feet or more without navigation or tidal restrictions.

"The Charleston Harbor Deepening Project is one of the most significant infrastructure projects in S.C. history," Newsome said. "A 52-foot deep harbor will ensure we remain competitive for decades to come as bigger ships bring more cargo to S.C. Ports. A thriving port drives economic development and attracts business to the state, which ultimately creates high-paying jobs for South Carolinians. Port operations generate a $63.4 billion economic impact on the state each year and create 1 in 10 S.C. jobs."

In 2012, the S.C. General Assembly set aside $300 million, the full estimated state share of the deepening construction costs. This decision was invaluable in showing the federal government that South Carolina is fully invested in deepening Charleston Harbor.

The project also previously secured $108 million in federal appropriations from the Army Corps of Engineers' work plans, as well as an additional $50 million loan from the state. Construction began in early 2018.

"We have been working diligently on this project with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for 10 years and it is great to see construction progressing. This impressive progress would not be possible without the unwavering support from the S.C. Legislature, who set aside funding years ago," S.C. Ports COO Barbara Melvin said. "Today, we are incredibly grateful to our Congressional delegation and the Trump Administration for funding this vital project to completion."

Work is ongoing to deepen the Entrance Channel to 54 feet; deepen a stretch from the Lower Harbor up to Wando Welch Terminal to 52 feet; and widen the turning basin of the Wando River from 1,400 feet to 1,650 feet.

The next contract will achieve a 52-foot depth from Charleston Harbor up the Cooper River to the future Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal in North Charleston, set to open in 2021. The new Leatherman terminal will double port capacity at full build-out.

"The importance of completing the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project cannot be overstated," Newsome said. "We are grateful to all our partners, elected leaders and teammates who are making this a reality."

Accolades from elected leaders:

"For decades, South Carolina's ports system has been the competitive advantage that sets our state's economy apart, and this $138 million investment in the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project ensures that it will remain an advantage for decades more. This news gives every South Carolinian reason to celebrate. Companies around the world will take notice of Team South Carolina's commitment to keeping our infrastructure on the cutting edge, which gives them more confidence in investing here and creating even more jobs for our people." -- Gov. Henry McMaster

"I'm incredibly appreciative of President Trump, as well as my House and Senate colleagues, for making this happen. The $138 million we secured is one of the most important milestones we have met. It will help keep us on track toward project completion. ... Charleston Harbor Deepening is about jobs -- both today and in the future. The Port is the backbone of our state's economy and responsible for over $60 billion in economic activity. Today's news ensures our Port will continue to benefit South Carolina and American business in perpetuity." -- U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham

"I am pleased the bi-partisan appropriations agreement contains $138 million for the deepening of the Charleston Harbor. This funding is critical to help the Port of Charleston become the deepest harbor on the East Coast, allowing post-Panamax vessels to call on the Port of Charleston any time of day. The Port of Charleston is vital to the economy of South Carolina. I am a huge supporter of the Port and I will continue to support efforts to ensure it continues to thrive." -- Congressman Jim Clyburn

"I am grateful to have worked alongside my colleagues in Congress to fight for the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project. The Port of Charleston supports thousands of businesses and jobs in our state and this federal funding is critical to ensuring the project remains on track, benefiting South Carolina's economy for years to come. I appreciate President Trump for recognizing the importance of this project and the critical role it plays." -- Congressman Joe Wilson

"I'm proud to stand behind a bipartisan government funding bill that invests in critical Lowcountry priorities like the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project, averts another shutdown, and fully funds the government for the rest of the fiscal year. The Port of Charleston is a driver of economic development across our entire state and region. This funding will allow the Port of Charleston to reach its full potential and continue to facilitate economic growth across the Lowcountry." -- Congressman Joe Cunningham

About South Carolina Ports Authority
South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA), established by the state's General Assembly in 1942, owns and operates public seaport and intermodal facilities in Charleston, Dillon, Georgetown and Greer. As an economic development engine for the state, Port operations facilitate 225,000 statewide jobs and generate nearly $63.4 billion annual economic activity. SCPA is soon to be home to the deepest harbor on the U.S. East Coast at 52 feet, and the Port is an industry leader in delivering speed-to-market, seamless processes and flexibility to ensure reliable operations, big ship handling, efficient market reach and environmental responsibility. For more information on SCPA, please visit