|Earlier this year, the Glenn Edwards helped do maintenance dredging at the entrance to Charleston Harbor. (Photo/Matt Tomsic)|
Published July 11, 2012
The Charleston Harbor deepening study could take fewer than four years from now to complete and cost roughly $5 million less than earlier estimates, the Army Corps of Engineers Charleston District said today.
Lt. Col. Ed Chamberlayne joked that typically news conferences from federal agencies have bad news to share, but today he would deliver “extremely encouraging news.”
At the start of the study last June, the Army Corps estimated it could take between five and eight years. The study will analyze the impact of deepening the harbor beyond its current level of 45 feet.
Today, Chamberlayne said the Army Corps knew it could finish the study within eight years, but the processes and support needed to finish the study within five weren’t yet available last year when the study began. With today’s announcement, the study in total will take five years or less.
“Now we have (the) procedures and guidance on how to do that,” Chamberlayne said.
The quickened pace means the harbor could be deepened by 2020 if it receives Congressional authorization and funding, among other caveats. Chamberlayne said Congress still must approve the project after the feasibility study despite the General Assembly setting aside the funds to cover the project’s entire cost, which is shared between the federal and state government.
To quicken the study, Chamberlayne said the Charleston District will make educated assumptions based on the harbor’s previous deepening study done in the 1990s and will collect more data for parts of the harbor that it lacks. In the project’s design phase, the Army Corps will verify those assumptions.
Chamberlayne cited an example of surveying rock beneath the harbor. Earlier guidelines called for the Army Corps to collect samples throughout the harbor for each study, but Chamberlayne said the Charleston District can rely on data from previous studies instead of re-collecting samples. But, he said, the corps doesn’t have as much data for the entrance channel, so the crews will collect samples there.
“It’s this blend of educated assumptions with data analysis,” Chamberlayne said.
S.C. State Ports Authority CEO Jim Newsome welcomed the quickened timeline.
“Through a short amount of time, this project has gained significant traction,” Newsome said today.
Members of the General Assembly attended the port’s event, and state Sen. Larry Grooms, state Rep. Chip Limehouse and others praised the port and the deepening project.
They stressed the cooperation between stakeholders and the Senate and House to secure the $300 million needed for the entire deepening project.
State Sen. Robert Ford, D-Charleston, said the Senate passed the funds without asking any questions. Limehouse, R-Charleston, said the House also passed the funds unanimously.
But you had questions, Ford said, and the group laughed.
“It is great that both houses are trying to out do each other,” said Grooms, who is a Republican from Bonneau.