$510M deepening of Charleston Harbor shipping channel gets OMB approval



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CHARLESTON, South Carolina — The $510 million deepening of the Charleston Harbor shipping channel has reached another milestone.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Wednesday that the project has been approved by the federal Office of Management and Budget. That means it now moves to Congress so lawmakers can approve funding for the federal share of the work.

The budget agency's approval signals support from the Obama administration for the harbor deepening.

The South Carolina Ports Authority and maritime interests want the harbor channel deepened to 52 feet from its current 45 feet to accommodate a new generation of larger containership. The federal government's share of the project is just over $200 million.

"We'll now push Congress to provide us with the tools needed to finish the job," Graham said in a statement. "I realize that jobs, both today and in the future, are at stake with this project. Our economic future and the livelihood of thousands of people in the Palmetto State depend on getting this project done."

Jim Newsome, SCPA president and CEO of the authority, called the development "tremendous news."

State lawmakers have put aside more than $300 million so work on the project can continue; the state can later seek reimbursement for the federal share.

The project passed another benchmark last month when the authority and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers signed what is called a Preconstruction Engineering and Design Agreement.

The preconstruction work includes refining cost estimates. It's the last planning phase for the project before actual construction and is expected to be finished by the end of the year.

The entire deepening project is expected to be completed in 2020.

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