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Georgia officials seek congressional support for a federal study on whether the shipping channel to the Port of Savannah should be deepened following a recent harbor expansion that cost nearly $1 billion. U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, a Missouri Republican and chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, expressed support for the study, stating that the expansion of the port is a priority. The Georgia Ports Authority has been advocating for another round of deepening the channel to accommodate the ever-growing classes of cargo ships to reach the port with full loads during lower tides.

It has been less than two years since the Army Corps of Engineers completed the last project, which added 5 feet of depth to the Savannah River. The agency’s leaders argue that the increasing size of cargo ships requires even deeper water for accessibility. Savannah is the fourth-busiest U.S. seaport for cargo shipped in containers, handling 4.9 million container units in the 2023 calendar year. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, a fellow Republican, echoed the importance of further expansion of the port, emphasizing the significance of progress to avoid regression.

All of Georgia’s congressional representatives, both Republican and Democrat, have signed a letter urging leaders to approve the study. U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter emphasized the need for continuous advancement, stating that standing still is equivalent to moving backward. Graves aims to include authorization for the study in the 2024 Water Resources Development Act to be voted on in the House this summer. The lengthy process of feasibility studies and execution of the prior dredging project took nearly two decades to complete.

Georgia Ports Authority CEO Griff Lynch expressed confidence in the Army Corps to work more efficiently and complete a new study within 10 years. The support from congressional members highlights the importance of expanding the port to accommodate the growing demand for larger cargo ships. With the economic significance of the Port of Savannah, further improvements are deemed necessary to maintain and enhance its competitiveness in the maritime industry. The authorization of the study in the infrastructure bill being drafted by Graves’ committee represents a crucial step towards facilitating future development and expansion of the port.

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