Plans to deepen and widen the Savannah harbor moved closer to reality on Wednesday with a 417-3 vote in the House to authorize funding for the project. The initiative has been on Georgia's radar for some time as a must-do type of project, so that the port could take on larger vessels coming through the Panama Canal beginning in 2015.
The cost of the project is $652 million, though many of the dollars have been set aside by Georgia in order to begin the project. While the Senate had already voted on the Water Resources Reform Development Act to allow the activity, the House still needed to vote on the bill for the sake of appropriating funds.
Georgia's set-aside share of the project cost is believed to be just north of $250 million.
At the conclusion of the project, the canal for Savannah will have a new depth of 47 feet as opposed to its current depth of 42 feet. With this increased depth, the port will be able to accept larger ships that will begin coming through the Panama Canal once an expansion is completed there in 2015.
“Georgia’s deepwater ports support 352,000 jobs in our state and service more than 21,000 companies throughout the country," said Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga. who is running for Senate in 2014. "Passage of this bill is a critical step toward ensuring this economic engine can continue its vital role in our regional and national economy. Deepening the harbor will free up $213 million in private capital each year that can be invested in job creation and business expansion. For every dollar invested in the project, there is a $5.50 return. Let’s get this bill signed into law and this important project underway.”
The bill will go to a conference committee for final reconciliation before a final passage by both chambers and a presidential signature. Port expansion supporters are hopeful that a signature can be secured prior to the end of the year.