Georgia will get the Savannah Harbor deepened. And we will do it despite the White House.
In 1999 Congress passed legislation to deepen the Savannah River. This is not a new concept. When James Oglethorpe sailed up the Savannah River in 1733 the depth was 12 feet. In the late 1970s when I worked on the waterfront the depth was about 33 feet. In short, we have consistently deepened the river with the advancement of deep water ships visiting the port.
Deepening our harbor has allowed Georgia to keep pace with international trade competition and the global marketplace. In fact, today Savannah is the second largest port on our East Coast. Approximately 352,000 jobs in Georgia are related to the port. For every dollar invested in deepening the river, American taxpayers will see a return of $5.50. This is why the project is supported all over the state and by Members of Congress in Georgia and public officials from both parties.
After fourteen years and nearly $50 million, the Corps of Engineers has completed the most extensive environmental study of the Savannah River estuary in history confirming the project is environmentally sound. We have overcome a lawsuit from South Carolina and myriad of other obstacles to keep the project alive. Georgia's congressional delegation as well as state, municipal, and business leaders have met repeatedly with White House officials and been given assurance the project would receive its support.
President Barack Obama touted the project as one of his "We Can't Wait" initiatives on the campaign trail in 2012 and even touted it on "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno. Vice President Joe Biden famously professed his unwavering commitment on September 16, 2013, when, standing on the Savannah dock, he promised it would be done "come hell or high water." He said, "It's time we get moving. Folks, this is not a partisan issue. It is an economic issue." He's right. In the CSRA alone, it means 18,925 jobs.
It was therefore with shock and disappointment that the Obama administration did not back up all its talk by committing even one penny of construction money for harbor expansion in its just-released 2015 budget proposal.
In spite of this lack of support I remain optimistic and am committed to see it through in spite of the Obama Administration's dithering.
Fortunately, we have a Plan B. The Water Resources Reform and Development Act which recently passed the House -- as well as its companion legislation in the Senate -- gives the deepening project the green light. This legislation is now being negotiated in conference committee and will hopefully be brought to a final vote in April.
Stimulating our economy and creating new jobs through increased import and export trade is extremely important. That is why I pledge to do everything possible to initiate port construction.
Jack Kingston, R-Ga., represents Congressional District 1 (Savannah) in the U.S. House of Representatives.