U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson says the deepening of the Port of Savannah is not a done deal, yet he is optimistic since it’s a bipartisan project in Congress and President Obama has an export initiative.
Isakson would like to see the cost of deepening the port included in President Obama’s annual budget proposal to Congress, expected later this month.
He took questions from business leaders, Monday, at the Sandy Springs/Perimeter Chamber’s Circle private breakfast, held at UPS headquarters.
“We may have some difficulty,” said Isakson, on Congressional approval of an increase in the cost of deepening the port. “…But we’ve got to get it done one way or the other.”
The deepening of the Port of Savannah is tied to expansion of the Panama Canal, which is scheduled for completion in late 2014. Georgia leaders say if ships from the canal dock in Savannah instead of another East Coast harbor, the flow of goods and services throughout the state will benefit local economies.
“Kasim Reed, the Mayor of Atlanta has been tremendous In his work to support the project,” Isakson said.
He explained that Congress authorized the deepening of the Port of Savannah from 42 to 47 feet in 1999, and it must be deepened to accommodate post-Panamax, ships – the largest in the world. For those ships to enter and leave the Port of Savannah, in its current state, they have to wait for the tide to come in.
An additonal problem is the cost has jumped from $220 million to more than $660 million. That triggered a rule that says Congress must approve the cost.
The Republican Senator reminded the crowd that Savannah is an essential export harbor with cargo shipped from Fort Stewart or Fort Benning to Afghanistan and Iraq, in addition to Marine Humvees sent to all parts of the world, he said.
“It’s a critical national security issue as well as a ports issue,” Isakson added.