On Tuesday, President Obama signed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, a legislative package that included $12.3 billion in funding for 34 infrastructure projects to improve the nation’s ports and waterways. The package authorized $440 million for the dredging of the Port of Savannah, clearing the final funding hurdle on a project in the works since 1999.
The $440 million of federal funds will be added to $266 million set aside in state budgets over the last few years to provide $706 million for the project. The funds will be used to deepen 41 miles of the Savannah River from 42 to 47 feet, allowing the passage of larger “supertankers” that will pass through a soon-to-be-expanded Panama Canal. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers expects the project to provide $5.50 in economic returns for every $1 invested.
The finalized project comes as good news to Caterpillar, the manufacturer of construction equipment that chose to locate in Athens largely because of the Port of Savannah. Caterpillar isn’t the only beneficiary, however. A 2012 study by UGA’s Terry College found that the statewide economic impact of Georgia’s two deepwater ports (Savannah and Brunswick) includes $32.4 billion in state GDP (7.8% of total state GDP) and 352,146 full- and part-time jobs (8.3% of total state employment). The Port of Savannah is also one of the few American ports that exports more than it imports.
The Savannah Port Authority and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will now come together for the final approval, and the project could commence as early as December. Larger ships are expected to start passing through Savannah in the next four years.
Want to learn more about the impact Georgia’s infrastructure has on the economy? Check out our Square One report.
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