Ferguson on committee that moves ports funding bill forward
The Port of Savannah moved 356,700 twenty-foot equivalent container units in April, an increase of 7.1 percent and the most ever handled at the port in April. A bill in Congress would approve additional funding to deepen the harbor.
U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson, who represents the Third District, including Coweta County, serves on the committee that moved forward a bill worth $49 million for the Savannah port expansion.
The U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee unanimously voted to advance the Water Resources Development Act of 2018 on May 23. The next step is for the measure to be considered by the entire House of Representatives.
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The bill would provide for improvements to America’s ports, inland waterways, locks, dams, flood protection, ecosystem restoration and other water resources, setting up the measure for full House consideration.
The legislation includes a critical increase in the authorized cost of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project.
Ferguson (Ga.-03) and Rep. Rob Woodall, who represents Georgia’s Seventh Congressional District, both supported passage of the bill.
While the port is four hours from Newnan, the economic impact of the port is strong in Coweta County. Many Coweta firms import raw materials, components or finished products that come through the port. Local companies also send products to Savannah that are then shipped around the world from the port.
Currently, the Savannah port is being expanded to handle larger cargo ships.
The larger ships were built in response to the expansion of the Panama Canal in 2016.
The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, or SHEP, will deepen the Savannah Harbor federal shipping channel from a depth of 42 feet to 47 feet. The extra depth will allow an additional 3,600 cargo containers to move through the port.
Ferguson, whose hometown is West Point, commended U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania, who is chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
“WRDA is essential to preserving and modernizing our nation’s water infrastructure to keep us competitive on the global stage,” Ferguson said. “The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project is critical to promoting trade in the state of Georgia, and this year’s bill includes language that would allow the project to continue to move forward.”
SHEP has had widespread, bipartisan support for several years. Federal funds to start the project were allotted during the Obama administration.
In Georgia, the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project has broad support including significant influence from Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, and former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, a Democrat.
Deal applauded the approval of WRDA.
“I applaud Rep. Woodall, Rep. Ferguson and the Georgia delegation for their continued efforts on behalf of the deepening of the Port of Savannah,” Deal said. “This bill is another important step forward to ensuring this project receives support and resources from the federal government.”
The governor noted the state has already invested “more than $300 million” in the ports project.
“As Georgia has fulfilled its commitment, we continue to look to the federal government to provide its promised share of funding to ensure that construction on this internationally recognized project progresses steadily, resources are allocated efficiently and taxpayer dollars are spent appropriately,” Deal said.
“Having a Savannah Harbor that is fully equipped to accommodate large carriers and the needs of a global economy is of benefit to Georgia, yes, but it is also of tremendous value to the southeastern region of the nation,” Woodall said.
Georgia Ports Authority Chief Administrative Officer Jamie McCurry expressed appreciation to Georgia’s Congressional delegation for keeping “this critical project on track.”
Savannah has been described as the nation’s fastest growing and fourth-busiest container port. The harbor reportedly handles more than three million, 20-foot container units per year. The ports also serve more than 21,000 U.S. businesses.
“The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project is one of the top economic development priorities for the state of Georgia,” said Rep. Tom Graves, who represents Georgia’s 14th District. “Once completed, it will provide security for the 21,000 American businesses that rely on the Port of Savannah and bring $174 million in annual net benefits to the United States.”
The Savannah ports recently posted its busiest April to date.
The port also achieved a compound annual growth rate of more than 5 percent a year over the past decade.
"As reported in the recent economic impact study by UGA's Terry College of Business, trade through Georgia's deepwater ports translates into jobs, higher incomes and greater productivity," said GPA Board Chairman Jimmy Allgood. "In every region of Georgia, employers rely on the ports of Savannah and Brunswick to help them become more competitive on the global stage."
To strengthen the port’s ability to support the state's future economic growth, the GPA Board recently approved $66 million in terminal upgrades, including $24 million for the purchase of 10 additional rubber-tired gantry cranes.
Ferguson said “investing in landmark infrastructure projects like SHEP ensures that the United States will continue to be the best place in the world to do business in a 21st century economy.”
Deal expects “SHEP to further establish Georgia’s role as a gateway for global commerce,” he said.
Expanding the Savannah port is “a vital part of maintaining our state’s economic momentum and creating even more employment opportunities for Georgians,” McCurry stated.