By Matt Tomsic
Published May 20, 2013
In Baltimore Friday, President Barack Obama said the nation needs to cut red tape for permitting infrastructure projects, mentioning the Charleston Harbor deepening project specifically.
Also that day, Obama signed a government memorandum designed to quicken permitting timelines. The measure built on a 2012 executive order to make permitting and review processes for federal infrastructure projects more efficient.
“So a while back, what I did was I ordered everybody who was involved in approving projects to speed up the permitting process for 50 different big projects all across the country from the Tappan Zee Bridge in New York to the Port of Charleston in South Carolina,” Obama said Friday at Ellicott Dredges in Baltimore. “And we’ve been able to, in some cases, cut approval times from seven years down to a year. So we’ve made progress. Today, I’m directing agencies across the government to do what it takes to cut timelines for breaking ground on major infrastructure projects in half.”
A committee will identify and prioritize opportunities to modernize regulations and procedures within 60 days, according to the memo, and the committee is also tasked with creating a plan for modernizing federal review and permitting processes.
The memo follows an executive order issued last year, and Charleston’s presidential shout-out is the most recent attention the Lowcountry has received nationally for its harbor deepening project.
In March 2012, Obama issued an executive order, directing the Office of Management and Budget to make permitting and review processes more efficient. Dozens of projects were expedited, and the president chose the Port of Charleston as one of the first seven projects of the program. Obama also included projects at the Port of Savannah, the Port of Jacksonville, the Port of Miami and the Port of New York & New Jersey.
The streamlined process blends with the Army Corps of Engineers’ work toward a September 2015 deadline to provide its recommendation to Congress whether to deepen the harbor beyond its current depth of 45 feet. The project is now in the study phase, which ends with the corps’ recommendation to Congress.
Lt. Col. Ed Chamberlayne, Charleston district commander for the Army Corps, reaffirmed the study’s timeline April 30 during a public meeting for the project.
Reach Matt Tomsic at 843-849-3144.