By David Pendered

The proposed deepening of the Savannah Harbor received a major boost today in the form of documents released by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The studies released today show the cost would be about $652 million to deepen the Savannah River shipping channel by five feet, to 47 feet. The economic impact of the expected increase in trade would amount to $174 million a year, nationwide.

In a related development, the South Carolina Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear a dispute over a state water quality permit that would allow the dredging of the shipping channel, according to a report by the Associated Press. The court’s decision to take the case will fast track a final ruling in a matter that would have been appealed up from lower courts.

The public comment period on the documents released today is tentatively set to end at noon on May 21.

Click here to read the full reports from the Army corps. Some links from this page to others appear to be broken.

The reports were applauded by state and local elected officials, along with business leaders, in Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee. The report has been 15 years and more than $40 million in the making.

The two reports cover topics ranging from the economic impact of future trade to the length and depth of the proposed deepening project to the projected environmental impact.

Gov. Nathan Deal
Gov. Nathan Deal heralded the report that supports deepening the Savannah Harbor.

Gov. Nathan Deal touted the results of the corps’ review.

“The study released today clearly shows that the deepening of the Savannah port will produce powerful economic benefits to the nation and to Georgia,” Deal said in a press release issued by the Georgia Ports Authority. “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.”

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said: “The announcement today that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released the final studies for Savannah’s harbor deepening project is a major step forward. The successful completion of this project is vital for the economy of metropolitan Atlanta, the state of Georgia and the Southeast, and will allow us to remain competitive now and in the future.”

The chairman of the Jasper County (S.C.) Council, Samuel Gregory, said he was pleased by the report. Gregory’s support is significant, given that Jasper County is the site of a proposed deep water port and would be affected by the harbor deepening project.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed praised the reports that endorse the deepening of the Savannah River.

“We are pleased to see the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project continue to proceed,” Gregory said in the ports authority’s release. “The success of the port is critical to jobs in our county and surrounding areas.  We hope to see this project completed as soon as possible and ultimately, we very much want to see a successful port of our own in Jasper County to compliment the ports of Savannah and Charleston.”

These are the improvements recommended by the report:

  • “Channel deepening from the sea through the harbor Entrance Channel to the Garden City Terminal to an authorized depth of -47 feet;
  • “Channel widening to create meeting areas at Long Island and Oglethorpe Ranges;
  • “Widening and deepening of the Kings Island Turning Basin;
  • “Channel widening at three bends.”
Savannah River deepening
This is an example of the channel alignment considered by the corps. This shows the area at Savannah's Historic Riverfront, downstream from Hutchinson Island to Fig Island. Credit:

Recommended mitigation features include:

  • “Preservation of 2,245 acres of freshwater wetlands;
  • “Restoration of 28 acres of brackish marsh;
  • “Construction of a fish bypass around the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam near Augusta, Georgia;
  • “Installation, operation, and maintenance of oxygen injection systems at three locations in the lower Savannah River;
  • “Construction of boat ramp on Hutchinson Island;
  • “Construction of a raw water impoundment for water withdrawn from Abercorn Creek by the City of Savannah;
  • “Data recovery, removal and conservation of the remains of the CSS Georgia.”

Here are comments from a host of stakeholders that were provided by the Georgia Ports Authority:

Savannah harbor deepening press conference
The final reports by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the proposed deepening of the Savannah River were announced by Col. Jeff Hall, (left) commander of the Savannah District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Curtis Foltz. Credit: Georgia Ports Authority

In Their Own Words…

Rick Gabrielson, Director of International Transportation, Target and President of the Coalition for Responsible Transportation

“The Port of Savannah is a vital part of the supply chain for Target and many other companies. The announcement that Savannah’s harbor deepening has taken an important step toward construction is great news for the U.S. economy, Target and our guests.

Jerry Bridges, Chairman of the Board, American Association of Port Authorities

“When the Panama Canal is completed in 2014, it is critical that the East Coast be prepared to serve larger vessels. The efforts by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Georgia Ports Authority to advance its deepening project in Savannah is good news for commerce and international trade. For the U.S. to become increasingly competitive in the international marketplace it is critical that we deepen our harbors.”

Bronco Bostick, Mayor of Hardeeville, South Carolina

“The Port of Savannah supports hundreds of jobs in the LowCountry of South Carolina. Without the port and its continued growth, our unemployment rate would be much higher. We need the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project to be completed to insure the long-term success of the port and improved economic development in our region. This project is good for both Georgia and South Carolina.”

Kim Statler, Executive Director, South Carolina LowCountry Economic Alliance

“The Savannah Port is critical infrastructure as we work to attract new business investment and jobs to the  LowCountry of South Carolina. Being prepared to accommodate post panamax ships in Savannah is a job creation game changer for this region.”

Willie Seymore, President, International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1414

“This is good news for ILA members and their families who live in both Georgia and South Carolina. Deeper water will keep us competitive and make it possible to deliver economic opportunities to the men and women of the waterfront.”

Dexter Muller, Senior Vice President, Greater Memphis Chamber

“The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project is significant because it makes the movement of time sensitive goods and materials more efficient and provides reduced time-to-market costs. Because of this unique connection between Memphis and the Port of Savannah, the Greater Memphis Chamber applauds this milestone in the deepening process and encourages the timely completion of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project.”

Steve Grable, Senior Vice President, Jones Lang LaSalle

“This is great news for our region. We know that companies that are considering moving to the Southeast are paying close attention to this process. They will be encouraged today by this crucial next step for our country’s single largest container terminal.”

J. Randy Jackson, Vice President of Human Resources and Administration, Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia, Inc.

“The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project is an important part of continuing the growth of Georgia’s current and future industries. At Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia, we’ve experienced the value of this port firsthand and realize how critical of a resource this is for the state. This project will benefit KMMG and our suppliers, which combined, employ more than 10,500 in this region alone.”

James H. Sumner, President, USAPEEC

“The USA Poultry & Egg Export Council (USAPEEC) continues to be a strong advocate and supporter of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project. It’s no coincidence that Savannah is America’s single largest gateway for poultry exports and that Georgia is the nation’s leading producer of chicken. The strategic location of the Georgia Ports has helped to empower Georgia to be one of the largest exporters of poultry, benefiting the entire U.S. industry. The importance of the Savannah Harbor Expansion project was made apparent during USAPEEC’s recent international marketing conference in Panama. We saw firsthand the importance of the canal to global commerce and we witnessed that progress is on schedule for its expansion by 2014. The Port of Savannah needs to be ready for the Post-Panamax containerships as they begin transiting the Canal by being able to accept these deep-draught vessels. As we often explain, 96 percent of our consumers live outside the United States. To miss this opportunity would be unthinkable.”

Tom France, Director, Global Transportation, Caterpillar

“As one of the largest exporters in the United States, the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project is critical to Caterpillar by providing world class infrastructure to a cost effective and high velocity port. Like other needed transportation infrastructure investment in the United States, this project is crucial in providing supply chain efficiencies that create jobs and enable us to remain competitive in world markets.”

Dr. Robert E. Martínez, Vice President Business Development, Norfolk Southern Corporation

“The Savannah harbor deepening project is critical to the economic well-being not only of Georgia, but of the entire Southeast. Norfolk Southern is greatly encouraged to see this action taken by the Corps of Engineers. Completion of this project will contribute substantially to maintaining a vibrant and competitive port in a key region of our country.”

Bill Clement, Vice President, Intermodal, CSX Transportation

“The Georgia Ports Authority’s Savannah Harbor Project is a great example of enabling efficient global supply chain solutions for the future.  We look forward to seeing this infrastructure project come to fruition as it will increase capacity and support expansion, significantly benefitting shippers, the freight community, and U.S. commerce.”

Steve McWilliams, President, Georgia Forestry Association

“A vibrant, modern port that can meet the current and future  demands of ocean-going commerce is critical to the state’s forest product industries. That is why the Georgia Forestry Association signed on as a SHEP Ally. The economic well-being of many Georgia communities and thousands of Georgia jobs depend to a great extent on access to global markets for Georgia timber and forest-related products. Deepening the Savannah Harbor must be a priority and the citizens and businesses of the state must step up and do their part to keep one of the state’s most robust economic engines growing.”

Terry L. Bunch, Director, Logistics and Customer Service, Rayonier

“A crucial project for the competitiveness of the US took a major step forward today. The deepening of the Savannah harbor is critically important for our company and all companies engaged in global trade.”

Vito J. Ciaccia, Director, International Distribution Operations, International Paper

“Congratulations to the Georgia Ports Authority on this momentous announcement. International Paper depends on our port partners to help facilitate our export program.  Infrastructure improvements such as the SHEP project are key facets in this strategy. This SHEP announcement gives us the confidence that the Savannah port will be there for International Paper far into the future.”

Mark Holifield, Senior Vice President – Supply Chain, The Home Depot

“Global shippers, such as retailers and manufacturers, will migrate to the most efficient and expedient options as a matter of necessity, so the Savannah port expansion is absolutely critical for Georgia to maintain its standing as one of the world’s most important shipping corridors for the years to come.”

Mike Mabry, Executive Vice President, Logistics and Distribution, Lowe’s

“As one of the largest customers of the Port of Savannah, we support the port’s efforts to improve the efficiency of port operations. With the completion of the SHEP, Lowe’s will be able to get products to our customers faster and more efficiently.”

Fred Cox, International Logistics, JBS, USA, Swift Beef Company, Swift Pork Company & Pilgrim’s

“We are very pleased to see that needed investments in port infrastructure such as SHEP are moving forward. The deepening of our ports to accommodate larger vessels that offer more cost efficient movement of cargo and economies of scale will continue to help drive costs from the supply chain and further support our ability to sustain growth in our exports.”

Fabio Freccia, General Manager of Logistics, Volkswagen Group of America

“As Volkswagen AG continues its quest as the world’s number one auto manufacturer, Volkswagen Group of America will continue growing here in the Southeast. We support the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project  (SHEP). It will provide not only VW but other manufactures the access of larger vessels as well as supply chain enhancements for one the fast growing industrial regions in the United States.”

Stephen W. White, Chief Logistics Officer, Dollar Tree, Inc.

“The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project is a critical component of increasing the efficiencies of our country’s supply chain infrastructure by leveraging the economies of scale associated with the larger vessels transiting the Suez Canal today and the Panama Canal in 2014.”

Klaus Schnede, Manager Marine, Air and Facilities Procurement, Eastman Chemical Company

“Eastman Chemical Company is excited to hear about the next, significant step in harbor deepening efforts for the Georgia Ports Authority. In order to remain competitive for shipments into export markets around the world, this project needs to be finished as soon as possible. Bigger ships mean less per unit cost which will benefit both exporters and importers to remain competitive in today’s global markets.”

Al Gebhardt, Vice President, North America Liner Operations, Maersk Line Agency

“The deepening of the Savannah harbor is a critical step to ensure competitive access to the Southeastern U.S. for our industry, and we are encouraged to see this action taken by the Corps of Engineers.”

Frank J. Baragona, President, CMA CGM (America) LLC

“CMA CGM is pleased to announce our support on behalf of the GPA in their efforts to deepen the Savannah River channel in order to accommodate larger new generation class container vessels.”

Christopher J. Parvin, Vice President, Marine Operations, Mediterranean Shipping Company

“MSC, welcomes the news of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Plan. We need deep water at all US Ports to handle the vessels that are already calling today on the East and Gulf Coasts to insure that we have an efficient and cost effective transportation network for our industry, the Southeast region, and the nation.”

F. Gray Carter, Vice President, Purchasing & Logistics, Buckeye Technologies Inc

“As a major exporter of goods manufactured in the southern United States, we are pleased that the Savannah River expansion will allow Savannah to remain a vital port for both inbound and outbound shipments. Enabling the larger class ocean vessels of the future will ensure the port remains both competitive and relevant in our global economy.”

U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss

“Today’s announcement marks a vital milestone in the ongoing process of deepening the Port of Savannah. This project is critically important to ensure Savannah is able to accommodate global shipping traffic once the expansion of the Panama Canal is complete in 2014. This would bring more jobs and businesses not just to Georgia, but to the entire Southeast.”

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson

“I am delighted to see the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project continue to move forward with today’s milestone. Preparing the Port of Savannah for the vessels of the future is absolutely critical to our economy at both the state and national levels, and I will continue to do all that I can to see this project through to its completion.”

Congressman Jack Kingston

“The Port of Savannah is already a strategic national interest which has promoted economic growth across our country. Expanding our harbor is critical to ensuring its continued vitality for generations to come by laying the groundwork for tomorrow’s economy today. After more than twelve years and the most comprehensive environmental study by some of the country’s leading experts, we know we can expand safely. The expansion of the Panama Canal gave us a rare opportunity to look into and prepare for the future. We need to make sure we are taking advantage of that chance and not getting left behind.”

Congressman John Barrow

“We’ve got to get the Savannah port deepened. Deepening this port has been one of my top priorities, because it’s vital for long term job growth in Georgia. I’m happy to see any additional progress for this project, and I’ll continue to work with every member of Georgia’s delegation to see that we complete this project.”

Chris Cummiskey, Commissioner, Georgia Department of Economic Development

“The Port of Savannah is the economic engine of our state, and the reason many companies, most recently Caterpillar, choose to locate or expand in Georgia. Deepening the Savannah Harbor is critical if we’re going to see continued job growth in the state. This important step closer to deeper water, adjacent to two class one railroads and nearby highways, will encourage continued corporate investment, and new and retained jobs, in Georgia and throughout the Southeast.”

Chris Clark, President & CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce

“The number one priority of the Georgia Chamber is to grow our state’s competitiveness, and few projects are more important to that mission than deepening the Savannah Harbor. Once completed, this project will secure Georgia’s position as a global gateway – supporting the export of domestic products worldwide and facilitating the receipt of goods to be distributed throughout the nation. As the state’s leading business advocacy organization, our Chamber has supported the Savannah Harbor deepening project since its inception and we will continue to do all that we can to assist the Georgia Ports Authority as they work to bring this project to fruition.”

ACP Administrator/CEO Alberto Alemán Zubieta

“Considering the importance of the Port of Savannah and its Savannah Harbor Expansion Project in the logistics chain and in the ‘All-Water Route,’ we are honored and pleased to renew our alliance with the Georgia Ports Authority and look forward to seeing their infrastructure project completed and continuing our partnership.”

Stephen Isaf, CEO Interra International, Inc.

“As one of the leading exporting firms of US Poultry and Meat products, we depend upon the Port of Savannah’s strategically located facilities to reach our global markets. Achieving this historic milestone in the deepening of the Savannah River enables US companies to successfully compete internationally. Ours is a price sensitive global industry and SHEP will facilitate economical transport of products to customers worldwide. It means the difference in USA goods, producers and workers being able to fulfill international customer needs.”

Savannah Mayor Edna B. Jackson

“This important step moves us ever closer to ensuring that the City of Savannah, the region and our entire country have the infrastructure we need to compete globally in this new century. A deeper Savannah Harbor brings in more business, creates more jobs and is good for the hundreds of local companies that rely on the imports and exports of the country’s single largest container port. We are excited and are looking forward to this becoming a reality.”

David Paddison, Chairman, Savannah Economic Development Authority

“The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project is arguably the most critical economic development project for the Southeastern United States. The Coastal Empire and Lowcountry of South Carolina are dependent on the ongoing success of this port for sustaining employment and creating new opportunities. Today’s announcement is welcome news and we look forward to project construction being underway later this year.”

Trip Tollison, Chief Operating Officer, Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce

“The Savannah area business community has been waiting for this day for a long, long time.  We finally get to see the results of a lengthy, $41 million study process in which every interested party had a chance to address their concerns over the last 15 years.”

David Moore, Director of Investments, Stratford Land

“Stratford Land is a big believer in the Georgia Ports Authority and the deepening of the Savannah Harbor. Through projects including Westport, Northport, and RiverPort, Stratford has invested $100 million in industrial parks in Chatham County, Georgia as well as Jasper County, South Carolina. This important recommendation from the Army Corps moves us closer to ensuring that our country and region will have the infrastructure we need to compete globally in this new century.”

Thomas Browne, Jr., Master Pilot, Savannah Pilots Association 

“The Savannah River Pilots are pleased to see the project move another step closer to construction. The SHEP will enable more efficient movement of all vessels that call the port by reducing the tidal restrictions around which we operate. This deepening is critical to ensuring our port’s future success as the vessel fleet calling the East Coast becomes larger.”

Ulises J. Carrillo, Vice President, Global Logistics, Dole Food Company, Inc.

“As both an importer and exporter, a competitive and cost effective port would continue to enable us to export raw materials and import finished quality food in and out of  the United States, which is key for success in today’s global economy. The American consumer is the ultimate beneficiary, consuming quality foods and affordable prices.”

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written...

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  1. Railex 5 day non-stop private coast-to-coast railway transport with state of the art quality controlled distribution centers and real-time GPS inventory tracking is the greener alternative to refrigerated trucking companies

  2. Are we discussing improvements to Freight Rail capacity if this project moves forward?   It seems right now the freight rail lines are at capacity in Georgia, so if we are going to rely on trucks traveling up I -75 through Atlanta (and the west side of 285) then perhaps we shouldn’t do this project.   Is this why we are spending so much money adding capacity to 75?  Is this why the almost $700 billion in proposed TIA “transit” dollars may go to building HOT lanes instead of rail?
    Lets kill two birds with one stone!  Expand rail capacity so that we can move more freight by rail and also have capacity for Commuter Rail!   If you put the 700 million in proposed TIA funds towards this end (commuter rail and expanded freight capacity in the NW 75 Corridor) then I’m on board for the dredging and the Uber Regressive TIA tax.

    1.  @inatl
      “Are we discussing improvements to Freight Rail capacity if this project moves forward?”
      Actually, there are somewhat surprisingly serious ongoing discussions of upgrading the freight rail lines so as to establish a high-speed freight rail link between Atlanta and the Port of Savannah, especially seeing as though Savannah has basically become Atlanta’s maritime link to the world.
      The Port of Savannah has also experienced white-hot growth over the last couple of decades to become one of the busiest seaports on the planet, an accomplishment that not many may have thought was possible about 30 years ago. 

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