Special to the Journal
WASHINGTON –U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), and U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston (GA-1) strongly urged President Obama in a letter today to fulfill his “We Can’t Wait” promise and include legislative language for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP) authorization increase in his budget amendment to Congress.
Chambliss, Isakson and Kingston reminded the president that during his presidential campaign last July, he “illustrated understanding of the outstanding benefits this project provides.” The president listed the Port of Savannah as one of five “We Can’t Wait” projects.
“We are disappointed that your support for this vital project has seemingly waned this year,” the lawmakers continue. “With the forthcoming expansion of the Panama Canal, additional U.S. ports capable of receiving Post-Panamax ships are critical for the economic wellbeing and competitiveness of our nation. This is a vital project for Georgia, for the Southeast, and for the nation.”
The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project was authorized in the Water Resources and Development Act of 1999 to deepen the Savannah River from its current 42-foot depth to as much as 48 feet. The project is being undertaken in anticipation of an expansion of the Panama Canal that will increase the maximum draft of vessels travelling to and from the East Coast from 39.5 feet to as much as 50 feet.
According to the Army Corps of Engineers, it will bring more than $115 million in annual economic benefit to the United States, primarily through reducing costs associated with transportation.
The full text of the lawmakers’ letter is below.
April 29, 2013
The Honorable Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
We are deeply concerned with your fiscal year 2014 budget requests’ lack of support for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP). As you know, the Army Corps of Engineers’ General Re-evaluation Report calculates the national annual value of this project at $213 million in benefits. The same report shows that SHEP will create 11,554 jobs, over $551 million in labor income, and a gross regional value of over $794 million. In addition, SHEP boasts a very significant cost benefit ratio of 5.5:1. With the forthcoming expansion of the Panama Canal, additional U.S. ports capable of receiving Post-Panamax ships are critical for the economic wellbeing and competitiveness of our nation.
During your Presidential campaign last July, you illustrated understanding of the outstanding benefits this project provides when you listed the Port of Savannah as one of five “We Can’t Wait” projects. We are disappointed that your support for this vital project has seemingly waned this year.
As you may know, SHEP has been a bipartisan effort at the federal, state, and local level. We, along with full Georgia Congressional Delegation and Mayor Reed, have voiced to you support for SHEP numerous times. Additionally, the State of Georgia has exceeded their cost-share requirement by identifying $231 million for SHEP and Congress has appropriated construction funds for the last five fiscal years. However, because of the lack of support in your budget, both state and federal contributions sit idle and progress has slowed. SHEP is seeing day-for-day delay in construction and the $174 million of annual net benefits to the nation are not being realized.
We urge you to fulfill your “We Can’t Wait” promise and include legislative language for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project authorization increase in your budget amendment to Congress. This is a vital project for Georgia, for the Southeast, and for the nation.
U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson
U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston