Port Director Curtis Foltz says U.S. Army Corps is reviewing bids for deepening project.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to begin awarding several contracts for the Savannah Harbor deepening project by the end of the year, Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Curtis Foltz said Friday in an interview prior to an industry seminar in New York.
The port authority and state officials a month ago signed an agreement spelling out how the project partners will share costs and responsibilities, and allowing the Corps of Engineers to begin spending available funds.
Foltz said the Army Corps is expected to receive bids any day for
dredging the first 10-mile section of the outer channel. The project is
estimated to cost about $100 million, with contracts issued to the
winner by the end of December.
The plan, which has been on the drawing board for more than 15 years, calls for the Army Corps to dredge a 40-mile stretch of the Savannah River and the entrance to the shipping channel in the Atlantic Ocean from 42 feet to 47 feet to accommodate next-generation cargo vessels.
Last summer, Congress authorized the $706 million project to proceed, but has yet to appropriate any funds. The state of Georgia has set aside $266 million for its share of the construction, and Foltz said his office recently transferred $190 million to the federal agency to get work started.
The cost of the deepening project has escalated from its initial
authorized level of $500 million in 1999, primarily due to more
environmental mitigation requirements.
Over the next 30 to 60 days, the Army Corps should award contracts for a dissolved oxygen system, a new water impoundment area and dredging of the first 10 miles of the outer channel, he told American Shipper.
The dissolved oxygen system is designed to counter the effects of saltwater intrusion from deepening the Savannah River. New technology known as “Speece cones” will inject oxygen into the water during times of year when there’s low flow in the river, and oxygen levels are lower than optimal for aquatic life. Several machines will be placed at key locations on the river.
The Port of Savannah is the nation’s fourth-largest container port and a major import and export gateway. The Obama administration considers deepening the port an economic priority, and directed federal agencies to expedite environmental permitting and feasibility studies to get on Congress’ authorization schedule.
In fiscal year 2014, ended June 30, Savannah processed 3.14 million TEUs of cargo, up 6.3 percent from the prior year.
The Army Corps estimated that the harbor deepening project will bring $174 million in annual net transportation savings to the United States, and the extra five feet of depth will allow for an additional 3,600 cargo containers on each transit. The study also indicated for each $1 invested in deepening, the nation will gain a benefit of $5.50.