By Walter Jones –
ATLANTA – Foot dragging by the federal government to provide greater funding soon will cause delays in the deepening of the Savannah River, Gov. Nathan Deal warned Tuesday.
“We can’t afford to lose very much more time,” he told business leaders attending the Georgia Chamber of Commerce’s annual Eggs and Issues breakfast.
Deal noted that the state had put aside all of its share of the project but that Congress had only allocated $67 million of the $440 million federal share. The money is to dredge 7 feet from the river’s shipping channel to allow for the larger freighters that will use the Panama Canal when its widening is completed.
Georgia port officials worry that if the state is too slow in completing the project, shipping companies will take their business to another port.
“I am of the opinion if at least $90 million is not allocated in this current budget cycle, that it will definitely change the timetable of completion of this project, which should have been completed years ago, back even further,” the governor said.
Deal called on the state’s congressional delegation to lean on their colleagues and the Obama administration.
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said in his address to the same audience that the delegation has scored some successes by unifying in a bipartisan way. And in an interview with Morris News Service last week, he vowed to keep the 16-member delegation pushing for complete funding.
“Seeing to it that the Port of Savannah is funded and done is a four-more-year project,” he said then. “We’ve got to stay on top of it to make sure we don’t lose any ground politically or funding-wise…. You always have to compete for federal funding because there’s always somebody who’s after your money.”
Deal also said Georgia has addressed port access in other ways.
He has added $10 million to hire troopers for patrolling highways that will see increased truck volume from the bigger ships, including Interstates 95 and 16. And, in a separate news conference, he unveiled a 10-year, highway-construction plan that includes enhancements in many intersections, bridges and roads that trucks use in moving cargo to and from the ports in Savannah and Brunswick.
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