June 28, 2012

SC Legislature Commits $300 Million to Charleston Harbor Deepening

Charleston, SC - In a strong show of support for the deepening of Charleston Harbor, the South Carolina Legislature now has committed $300 million to fund the construction of a post-45-foot harbor project for the Port of Charleston. This allocation would cover the entire estimated cost to deepen the harbor to 50 feet, once the project receives authorization from Congress.

A conference committee comprised of leaders from both legislative houses announced today the amended state budget, which increased the cash contribution in the Harbor Deepening Reserve Fund to $300 million from $180 million previously approved by both the House of Representatives and Senate.

"We are tremendously grateful for the forward-thinking leadership in our legislature for recognizing how vital this project is to the entire state," said Bill Stern, chairman of the South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA). "The Members of the House Ways & Means and Senate Finance Committees, joined by the Members of the Review and Oversight Commission on the South Carolina Ports Authority, have guided this appropriation across the finish line. This deep commitment is proof positive that South Carolina is serious about competing in a truly global business in order to boost jobs and opportunity for its citizens."

Following the completion of the Post 45 Project's feasibility study and authorization by Congress, the Harbor Deepening Reserve Fund would be used to pay for the actual construction of the deepening project, which is estimated at $300 million.

The cost-sharing structure for a Post 45 depth is 60 percent funded by the state, or $180 million. The additional $120 million in the fund would cover the federal share of the project's construction if federal funding is not available. The funds also could be used to keep the project moving forward, thereby losing no time due to funding constraints. Expenditures from the fund would require approval by the Joint Bond Review Committee comprised of both House and Senate Members.

"This level of commitment instills a great deal of confidence in our customers and shows that the Port of Charleston is ready and able to meet their long-term growth needs," said Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the SCPA. "We have a good partner in the Corps of Engineers, and we will continue our productive collaboration to deliver a true post-Panamax harbor in the South Atlantic as quickly as possible."

"I believe the entire legislature views the Port of Charleston's deepening project as our state's number one economic priority," said Sen. Hugh Leatherman, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee. "Last budget year, we committed that our state would find the money for this project. South Carolina has now fulfilled our end of the bargain, and we look forward to the Corps of Engineers delivering a timely study so that the work can get underway as expeditiously as possible."

"We recognize that our state's future is tied very much to the vitality and growth of our port," said Rep. Brian White, chairman of the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee. "A large number of the companies that located in the Upstate and call South Carolina home chose our state because of our world-class port. By investing in the Port of Charleston, we are charting the course for a bright future."

"The port is South Carolina's gateway to global commerce," said Sen. Larry Grooms, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee and the Review and Oversight Commission on the SCPA. "It would be hard to overstate how much our economic well-being depends on this project. If we want our state to grow, if we want to welcome new jobs, if we want to succeed on the world stage, our port must stay competitive. This is a major win."

"The future of South Carolina really is contingent upon the growth of our port, and the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project is an essential part of that," said Rep. Jim Merrill, vice chairman of the Review and Oversight Commission on the SCPA. "By funding the construction costs of the deepening now, we are showing that we as a state are serious about our competitive position relative to other ports in this region and the Port of Charleston's role as a major player in global shipping."

Charleston's Harbor Deepening Project has built considerable momentum since the project's feasibility study began last summer. Earlier this year, $3.5 million toward the project's feasibility study was included in the President's Budget for fiscal year 2013. That allocation, along with the funds already included in the Corps' Work Plan, means that the federal share of the feasibility study is more than halfway funded.

Already the deepest harbor in the region, Charleston's deepening project would open the port to the biggest vessels 24 hours a day, under any tidal condition. The Corps stated in its Reconnaissance Study in 2010 that Charleston is likely "the cheapest South Atlantic harbor to deepen to 50 feet."

About the South Carolina Ports Authority:
The South Carolina Ports Authority, established by the state's General Assembly in 1942, owns and operates public seaport facilities in Charleston and Georgetown, handling international commerce valued at more than $58 billion annually while receiving no direct taxpayer subsidy. An economic development engine for the state, port operations facilitate 260,800 jobs across South Carolina and nearly $45 billion in economic activity each year. For more information, visit https://scspa.com.