The state of Georgia will chip in another $46.7 million to help pay for deepening the Savannah River to 47 feet from its current 42 feet as part of this year’s state budget.
The new money brings total state funding to $181.1 million for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project. Georgia and the federal government will share the cost of the project, with the state paying about a third of the total cost.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reduced the target depth for SHEP to 47 feet from 48 feet earlier this month as the level that would produce the most economic benefit. It estimated the project will cost $652 million and will produce an annual return of $174 million to the nation.
“We know that this project is important; not just for the Savannah area, it’s important for the state of Georgia, and it is also important for the United States,” Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said Tuesday in ceremonies at the Port of Savannah. “We will have our 40 percent, and as soon as we get the sign-off from the federal agencies, we will all be working collectively to get the federal government to make the commitment for their 60 percent, so that this project can become a reality.”
SHEP has to pass muster with four Cabinet-level agencies before it gets the final go-ahead. Under the terms of the authorizing legislation in the Water Resources Development Act of 1999 giving the corps conditional authority to proceed with SHEP, the plan must get a nod from departments of the Army, the Interior and Commerce and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Once those agencies approve, work would begin on environmental mitigation for SHEP, which will be funded out of the share of the project that is paid for by the state of Georgia.