Savannah Harbor Expansion
Kingston: Fed funding for port falls short
by W. Winston Skinner
U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston says the money in the proposed federal budget for expansion of the Savannah port is not enough.
Kingston, who lives in Savannah and represents 17 counties in and near the Georgia coast, is the congressman closest geographically to the port. The port, however, impacts business and industry throughout the state — including in Coweta County.
Candace Boothby, president of the Newnan-Coweta Chamber of Commerce, has termed the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project “absolutely critical to the continued success of Coweta industries.” In an interview last year, Boothby said Coweta County “has major international businesses that utilize the Savannah port to import and export tens of millions of dollars of products.”
President Barack Obama’s budget proposal — released April 10 — allots $1.28 million to the Savannah Harbor Deepening Project, but for Kingston that amount is far shy of the president’s earlier enthusiastic pledge for the expansion.
Georgia leaders have been touting the harbor deepening to poise the harbor for receiving larger ships that will come through the Panama Canal once a similar project is completed there.
“Last July, the Obama Administration touted its commitment to expediting the deepening Savannah’s harbor,” Kingston said in a statement when the budget was released. “Today it failed to honor that commitment by continuing to slow walk this project. What happened to ‘we can’t wait’?”
Support for the harbor project has come from across the political spectrum in Georgia. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, a Democrat, and Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, have jointly worked to garner support for the harbor deepening. U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson recently told the editorial board of The Albany Herald that there is “nothing bigger right now for the entire state” as an issue.
Newly-elected State Representative David Stover, R-Dist. 71, also has spoken in favor of the expansion project. “The bigger the ship, the better — the more you can ship,” he said during a campaign appearance while running for the state house seat that represents eastern and southern Coweta County.
“The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project will create jobs and prepare our region and our nation for the economy of the future,” Kingston said.
“Today our ports contribute $4.5 billion in federal taxes annually. They account for more than 352,000 jobs and contribute $32.4 billion to Georgia’s economy alone. Continued delay threatens to shut off this economic engine,” according to Kingston.
“We appreciate President Obama’s kind words last summer,” he said. “Now we need action.”
Deal expressed similar thoughts to Kingston’s about the funding for the Savannah harbor in the president’s budget proposal. “This amount certainly falls far short of what we were hoping for, particularly considering the time pressures we face on this project and the 5-to-1 return on investment our nation will begin to receive once this is completed,” Deal said.
“With the understanding that we’ll have a 60-40 federal-state split on funding, Georgia has lived up to its promises,” Deal said. “We’ve now put aside $231 million, which is a significant portion of our share.”
The federal government has allocated “only a small fraction of its obligations,” Deal said. “We would like to see more and quicker progress on this front.”
Deal did say the president’s budget “shows the administration’s support for the Record of Decision that gives the go-ahead for us to move forward.” The governor added, “Now that this is an approved project, we hope we’ll receive additional federal dollars through the Corps of Engineers budget for port projects.”
Kingston has stressed moving the ports project forward — citing as vital “keeping the project on schedule.”