US Army Corps unveils cost effective plan to reduce deepening of Savannah River
Savannah Harbor Expansion Project would increase the depth of the Savannah River to 47 feet at low tide
The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) yesterday concluded that that the deepening of the Savannah River would be more cost effective if the channel was deepened to a foot less than previously planned.
Following the release of the final documents of the 15 years of study carried out by the USACE into the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP), the federal agency announced that they will increase the depth of the Savannah River by five feet to 47 feet at mean low water.
The Georgia Port Authority had originally sought to dredge the river channel by six feet to 48 feet.
“The corps chose the optimal net benefits to the project, and that happens to be at 47 feet,” said GPA executive director, Curtis Foltz, at a press conference following the completion of the USACE studies.
“The benefits are still extremely strong at 48 feet, but there are diminishing returns after you cross the 47-foot barrier,” Foltz said in reference to the spiraling cost in offsetting the environmental damage caused by such a project.
“The depth, along with an average seven foot tide, strikes the right balance between the needs of our industry and the environment of the Savannah River.”
“Nearly 40 percent of the project cost is dedicated to environmental mitigation, preservation of cultural resources or the improvements to river access for the public,” he added.
The USACE studies also revealed that the estimated cost of the project is set to rise by around $52 million to $652 million, and will provide $174 million in annual net benefits to the nation. For every dollar spent on this critical infrastructure improvement, 5.5 dollars will be returned in benefits to the nation, the Corps’ studies showed.
“The study released today clearly shows that the deepening of the Savannah port will produce powerful economic benefits to the nation and to Georgia,” said Georgia Governor Nathan Deal.
“Today marks an important milestone for the Army Corps of Engineers, the State of Georgia and the great number of Americans who will benefit from the project.”
Savannah Port still has the shallowest harbor of all of the major ports in the US, despite being the fourth busiest container port in the country.
The deepening of the harbor has long been disputed by state officials who believe that the port needs to be able to handle larger ships to remain competitive.
Savannah, like other major ports on the East Coast, is in a race against time if it is to be ready for the influx of ships stemming from the completion of the Panama Canal expansion scheduled for completion in 2014.
The extensive USECE study will now be put before the state, federal agencies and the general public before its final approval.