The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released its draft environmental impact statement Tuesday of the proposed deepening of the Savannah River, a significant step in project port officials believe is critical to meeting shipping demands in coming years.
The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project aims to deepen the river from 42 feet to as much as 48 feet.
Once the Army Corps has received public and agency comment, it will incorporate them in the draft EIS and release the final report early next year.
“The study’s release is a significant step forward for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project and addresses a critical need of our country's transportation infrastructure," said Georgia Ports Authority’s Executive Director Curtis J. Foltz.
The GPA considers SHEP a critical step in preparing the Port of Savannah to accommodate the large container ships that will be able to transit the Panama Canal with cargo from Asia late in 2014 after it completes a third set of locks that can handle ships that are twice as long as the existing locks.
In preparation for the Panama Canal expansion, the GPA has embarked on an aggressive expansion and modernization plan to more efficiently accommodate newer, larger vessels that are already calling on the U.S. East and Gulf Coasts. These vessels like the CMA CGM Figaro, which called on Savannah in August, offer more capacity and lower cost per container compared to current Panamax vessels.
The project is widely supported by Georgia's state leadership, which has appropriated $105 million of construction funds to date.
By The Numbers: Containerized Ocean Trade - Georgia & South Carolina Ports
“The draft EIS represents the most exhaustive environmental study of the Savannah River estuary ever undertaken,” said Foltz. The $40-million scientific study details plans to avoid impacts to natural resources and proposes mitigation for any unavoidable impacts of the SHEP.
“This project – one of the most important and productive civil works projects in the country – will maintain and create jobs and commerce throughout the nation, while significantly reducing transportation costs for U.S. shippers,” said GPA’s Chairman of the Board Alec L. Poitevint. “As the Southeast’s gateway to the world, our harbor must be able to accommodate these vessels without tidal restrictions in order to efficiently serve global commercial demands.”
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