Savannah harbor deepening project reaches its midpoint

State leaders announced Wednesday the deepening of the Savannah River has reached a key milestone with completion of outer harbor dredging.

The nearly $1 billion project to deepen the Savannah River to 47 feet from 42 feet is arguably Georgia’s biggest ongoing economic development project, as cargo shipped in and out of Savannah touches jobs from Valdosta to Chickamauga.

Port officials say the deeper channel will allow newer generations of larger freighters to ply the waters of the Savannah River with more flexibility and with fuller loads, making shipping through the port more efficient. Full completion of the inner harbor is now expected in late 2021.

While the state has committed hundreds of millions to the project, the funds needed from the federal government to keep the mammoth project on schedule haven’t fully materialized.

The Trump administration in its latest budget request called on Congress to set aside $49 million for dredging work by the Army Corps of Engineers for the 2019 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. That’s roughly half of what boosters say they need to keep the project on track.

Georgia lawmakers say they are pushing for more funding, but the earmark ban effectively ties Congress’ hands when it comes to setting aside money for specific projects such as Savannah. Congress could approve more money for a broader Army Corps construction account, but it’s bureaucrats who would have the ultimate discretion for whether that money goes to the project. The feds passed on giving the project additional dollars last year.

“The Port of Savannah is already the second busiest port in the nation for exports and the timely completion of this project will be a major step forward for our nation’s infrastructure,” Gov. Nathan Deal said in a news release. Deal’s office included an additional $35 million in its fiscal 2018 budget to keep the project moving.

“Deepening the port, along with other investments to create the nation’s strongest statewide logistics network, will make American exports more competitive abroad and benefit businesses in every corner of the state,” he said.

Georgia’s inland and coastal ports are vital cogs in the state’s economy. Georgia’s ports system accounts for some $40 billion in estimated economic impact across the state, and directly or indirectly touch about 400,000 jobs.

The ports are currently crafting plans for a massive expansion of its container capacity in Savannah and Brunswick.

This story will be updated later today. 

Never miss a minute of what’s happening in Georgia Politics. Subscribe to


AJC Business reporter J. Scott Trubey keeps you updated on the latest news about economic development and commercial real estate in metro Atlanta and beyond. You'll find more on, including these stories:

Never miss a minute of what's happening in local business news. Subscribe to

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Business

Your eggs probably aren't cage-free
Your eggs probably aren't cage-free

For some time, it seemed like the plight of egg-laying hens-confined to cages so small they can't even spread their wings-was ending. Restaurants, retailers, hotels and manufacturers, as well as food service and hospitality groups, suddenly recognized that consumer revulsion might cost them real money. So they rushed to announce self-imposed deadlines...
Troubled Georgia nuclear project faces another fateful moment
Troubled Georgia nuclear project faces another fateful moment

The future is again in question for a multi-billion expansion of Plant Vogtle in Georgia. But consumers are likely to pay for the nuclear power project even if it’s never completed. By the end of day Monday, energy organizations from around the state are supposed to vote on whether the expansion should be kept alive despite repeated delays and...
Atlanta home sales down again, prices rise
Atlanta home sales down again, prices rise

A supply-demand mismatch has continued to chill housing sales in metro Atlanta, according to a report from Re/Max of Georgia. The number of home sales last month was down 7.1 percent from the level of a year ago, with the worst plunge coming in Clayton, where sales fell 17 percent. That compares with a national decline of 1.1 percent during the same...
Top 10 holiday toys of 2018: Predictions on what toys are expected to sell out
Top 10 holiday toys of 2018: Predictions on what toys are expected to sell out

Parents, this is your public service announcement. Target, Walmart and Amazon have released their hot toy lists for the 2018 holiday season, and they include many of the toys expected to top kids' wish lists and sell out quickly.  looked at the three retailers' ...
More Stories