Today in Washington, DC, the US Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works Review Board (CWRB) unanimously approved the Final Integrated Feasibility Report and Environmental Impact Statement for the Charleston Post-45 Harbor Deepening project, a significant step in the federal process that ensures the project is on schedule to receive its Chief's Report this September.
"Today's approval by the Civil Works Review Board allows our harbor deepening project to progress without delay," said Jim Newsome, SCPA president and CEO. "Once deepening to 52 feet is realized, Charleston will offer the deepest harbor on the East Coast with the capability to serve fully-loaded post-Panamax vessels 24 hours a day. Our deepening project, coupled with significant SCPA investments in landside infrastructure and terminal capacity, supports SCPA cargo volume growth more than twice the national port average. We are fortunate to have great partners in US Army Corps of Engineers, whose collective expertise and commitment was demonstrated today."
The final report has been approved for release for a 30-day review period for state and resource agencies. The Chief's Report is expected to be signed in September and then transmitted to Congress, with construction to begin following the Preconstruction, Engineering and Design Phase.
"A competitive, growing port brings tremendous economic benefits to our state and our region," said SCPA Board Chairman Bill Stern. "Recognizing the importance of the deepening project to our port, elected officials from all levels of government as well as the business community and the public are united in their support of 52 feet. South Carolina, the Southeastern region and our nation will enjoy the positive impacts of the Charleston harbor deepening for years to come."
Efforts to deepen the Charleston harbor began in 2011 in order to provide the depth necessary to handle post-Panatmax vessel calls without tidal restriction. The expansion of the Panama Canal and the raising of the Bayonne Bridge in NJ are expected to significantly increase the size of cargo vessels deployed to East Coast ports, making deepwater a requirement for modern ports. In addition, growth of population and manufacturing in the Southeast has been a significant driver of SCPA volume gains and the need for a deeper harbor. Charleston currently receives 11 post-Panamax vessel calls weekly.
In 2013, the SC General Assembly set aside the full estimated state share of the deepening construction costs, and the project was named was named one of President Obama's "We Can't Wait" initiatives.