The Georgia Ports Authority wants to see dredging on the Savannah River begin by the end of this year. Gov. Nathan Deal has made the port expansion a priority and Georgia lawmakers have already approved $231 million in state funding for the project.
Curtis Foltz, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority, said Thursday the target for completing the project — which would dredge 5 feet of sand and mud from more than 30 miles of the river — remains late 2016 or early 2017. He said the Savannah harbor should be better positioned to receive substantial federal dollars next year.
"Everyone's galvanized on a significant play in the 2015 budget," said Foltz, who acknowledged that "probably nothing is happening as quickly as we'd like it to in Washington."
Congress authorized the Savannah harbor expansion in 1999. And Reed noted the project has made rapid progress recently despite the funding issues.
Last year, Obama named Savannah among five U.S. ports the president singled out for expedited harbor expansions. Then the federal government issued its final permit for the project last fall. And the Senate voted last week to remove a spending cap of $459 million placed on the Savannah project in 1999 — a bureaucratic obstacle that still needs approval by the House.
"We're moving in the right direction and I know the president is aware of the importance of the Savannah port," Reed told reporters after his speech, saying the project has made more progress in the last three years than in the entire decade that came before. "I mean, I'd like for folks to give us a little slack."
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