The Charleston Harbor deepening project has been allocated $17.5 million in federal funding, enabling construction to begin this fall as scheduled.
The project will deepen Charleston Harbor to 52 feet. It is estimated to cost $509 million; the state already set aside $300 million for it. The federal dollars bring the full amount of allocated funds to $317.5 million — roughly $192 million short of the total cost.
The federal dollars are crucial, though; construction could not begin this year without them.
“The significance of this funding for the timeline of our deepening project cannot be overstated — it is tremendous news for Charleston,” S.C. State Ports Authority President and CEO Jim Newsome said in a news release.
Port officials expect to have the deepest harbor on the East Coast by the end of the decade. Because the expansion of the Panama Canal has been completed, the port wants to complete the project quickly so it can handle the bigger ships already being deployed.
The port handled its largest ship to date, the 13,000-TEU Cosco Development, earlier this month. Newsome said more ships of that size are headed for the Port of Charleston.
With a 52-foot-deep harbor, the port will be able to handle the larger containerships fully loaded without tidal restriction, the ports authority said.
Board members, S.C. legislators and business leaders from across the state applauded the funding news, saying a deeper harbor will support business growth statewide for decades to come.
“The business community is incredibly grateful that our congressional delegation has kept the Charleston Harbor deepening project on track,” S.C. Chamber of Commerce CEO Ted Pitts said in a news release. “With one in 11 jobs tied to the port’s $53 billion annual economic impact, today’s announcement is great news for our businesses.”
The port also received $16.1 million in operations and maintenance dollars, which will enable routine maintenance dredging needed before the deepening work can begin.