Georgia governor says state will move forward on port plan - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Governor says Georgia will move ahead on port project

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WASHINGTON (WTOC) -

Gov. Nathan Deal said late Tuesday afternoon that he's prepared for the state to move forward on its own with the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project.

Deal announced that Georgia would use the money it has put aside over several years to begin work so that the project doesn't fall further behind schedule.

Deal's statement: "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. "Earlier this year, President Obama signed into law - a law this budget recommendation ignores - a provision that allows Georgia to use the $266 million it has set aside to get the work started. That's exactly what I intend to do. The state of Georgia and its congressional delegation have worked diligently and patiently to see this project through to fruition. We've dotted every ‘I' and crossed every ‘T,' we've received every federal permit required and we've already waited too long. Under the federal law recently passed, we will begin dredging using state funds until the federal government lives up to its obligations in this partnership. The Obama administration has noted repeatedly the importance of projects such as this for economic development and job creation, and the state of Georgia, as always, stands ready to do its part."

Deal's plans come after U.S. Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson weighed in on the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project failing to make President Barack Obama's budget.

"We are deeply disappointed and frustrated to see the promises to help advance the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project made by President Obama and Vice President Biden were not fulfilled in today's budget release. 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. The administration has once again chosen to ignore existing law, and in this case needlessly hamstring the advancement of SHEP," said the senators in their statement.  Read the full statement.

U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston released this statement: "I am shocked and bewildered at the Obama Administration's continued stonewalling of this vital project for our economy.   To tout this project on the campaign trail, talk about it on the Tonight Show, and then to hide behind the bureaucracy when it's time for action is hypocrisy beyond the pale.

"Just six weeks ago, President Obama himself signed legislation that cleared any remaining hurdles for the project to move forward.  There is no doubting the law or legislative intent of Congress on this project: it is time for construction and for the federal government to meet its obligations.

"Today's announcement is one more example of the Obama Administration ignoring the law and shows just how callus, cynical, and disingenuous its political arm has become.  No wonder Vice President Biden snuck in and out of Atlanta refusing to speak to the public.

"I will not rest until we get this project underway and see its benefit realized for the people of Georgia and the people of this country."

Curtis Foltz, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority, released this statement: "We are extremely disappointed that construction funds for SHEP were not included in the president's 2015 Fiscal Budget. However, we are grateful that the Governor and state legislature have fully funded the estimated state share at $265 million which enables us to move forward with construction in the near future. We strongly believe that the FY 14 Omnibus Appropriations Act, passed by Congress and signed by the President, legally allows the Corps to proceed with the project contracts."

The harbor deepening project calls for deepening the Savannah Harbor from 42 feet to 47 feet. The projected first cost of SHEP at 2012 price levels was $652 million. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers the project would benefit the U.S. $174 million per year. It is estimated that for each $1 invested in the project, the U.S. will see nearly $6 in return.

Under the plan, the federal government would cover 70 percent of the cost and the state of Georgia would cover 30 percent, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

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