Sheheen to Haley: "Join Me in Calling on our Congressional Delegation to Do the Right Thing for South Carolina Jobs"
State Senator and candidate for governor Vincent Sheheen today called on political leaders from both parties, and his opponent in the race for governor in particular, to join forces in asking South Carolina's Congressional delegation to ensure funding to study deepening Charleston Harbor.
"This is clearly a time for every elected official in South Carolina to set aside partisanship and join forces," stated Sheheen. "If Congress does not act now, there could be potentially devastating consequences for the Port of Charleston and thousands of jobs in our state."
The Port of Charleston currently provides an estimated 260,000 jobs, nearly $12 billion in wages and $1.5 billion in local and state tax revenue for South Carolina. In the next several years, three East Coast ports are likely to be chosen to handle increased mega-tanker traffic, providing those ports with enormous opportunities for new business and expansion. The change will occur as a result of the widening and deepening of the Panama Canal, which will enable mega-tankers to utilize East Coast ports -- bypassing Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach. But in order for any East Coast port to handle the mega-tanker business, it will have to able to accommodate vessels with up to a 50-foot draft, which is several feet deeper than most are currently able to handle.
Other East Coast ports, including Wilmington, Savannah and Jacksonville, have begun the process of assessing their options to dredge up to 50 feet. An Army Corps of Engineers study is required to determine the feasibility of deepening and widening the harbor, but the funding for that study is not currently included in the Obama Administration's 2011 budget. The House of Representatives has secured the funding, but thus far, the Senate has not -- potentially placing South Carolina at a strategic disadvantage to its competitors.
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has stated that he will continue to push for the inclusion of the funding in the federal budget.
"A number of elected officials from both parties have signaled their intention to work together to secure this funding," said Sheheen. "Congressmen Clyburn, Brown and Spratt and Senator Graham all clearly understand the vast importance of this issue to South Carolina businesses and I applaud their leadership. Today, I call on Representative Haley to join with me in calling on those members as well as the rest of our Congressional delegation to redouble their efforts to ensure that this funding is secured."
If the project fails to receive the necessary funding in this budget, it increases the risk of falling out of the Army Corps of Engineers' construction authorization cycle and could be relegated to a two-year waiting period. This would cripple the Port of Charleston's ability to compete with other ports, which are already undertaking similar studies.
"It is no secret that we're facing tough times here in South Carolina," Sheheen concluded. "We currently have one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. There are millions of dollars and thousands of jobs at stake, and I believe it is the obligation of every elected official in the state to put aside the politics and do what we can to ensure that this enormous opportunity for economic development does not slip through our fingers. I hope Representative Haley will join me in calling on every member of Congress including Senators Graham and DeMint to redouble their efforts to secure this funding."