BRADENTON, Fla. - Georgia plans to begin deepening the Savannah Harbor even though President Obama's 2015 budget failed to include federal construction funds for the project, according to Gov. Nathan Deal.
State lawmakers have committed $231 million of general obligation bond proceeds to the Port of Savannah dredging, and another $35 million has been recommended in Deal's 2015 budget. The $266 million in state financing totals its required share of the $652 million project.
Necessary federal approvals are in hand to increase the harbor depth by about five feet to accommodate larger cargo ships passing through the Panama Canal, which is also being expanded.
"Vice President Biden promised in the past year that we'd get this project done come 'hell or high water,' but it's more accurate to say the administration is going to put us through the former to get to the latter," Deal said March 4 in response to the president's budget.
A law signed earlier this year allows Georgia to use its contribution to start the work, Deal said, adding, "That's exactly what I intend to do."
In a joint statement, Georgia's U.S. Senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson said they were "deeply disappointed and frustrated to see the promises to help advance the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project" unfulfilled in the president's budget.
"It is baffling to see this administration choose to ignore a statute passed just six weeks ago that cleared all remaining obstructions to moving forward with the project," Chambliss and Isakson said.
A White House spokesman said March 5 that members of Congress, including Chambliss and Isakson, are the reason federal funds were not included in the budget, according to a report by WSAV-TV in Savannah.
Since Congress has not reauthorized the Water Resources Development Act in seven years, which also would authorize funding for Savannah, federal appropriations for the project could not be included in the 2015 budget, a White House official told the television station.
The president supports quick passage of the act, the official also said.