Yesterday, the U.S. House passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA), which authorizes the development and maintenance of the nation's waterway infrastructure, among other critical projects. The legislation includes a key provision that authorizes the funding necessary for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project to move forward. This provision will end a 14 year delay of the project to deepen the harbor from 42 to 47 feet in order to accommodate new supertankers that will soon be coming from the Panama Canal. The expansion of the harbor will ensure it remains a vital piece of the national infrastructure and have a major economic impact on Georgia and the nation.
All 14 House members of the Georgia Congressional delegation voted for WRRDA, and both of Georgia's senators voted for the Senate version of the bill earlier this year. The following delegation members issued statements applauding the House bill's authorization of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project:
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), "I am pleased the House passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act with bipartisan support from the entire Georgia delegation. The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project is critically important to our state and local economies, and this bill provides the authorization needed to complete such an important project. I look forward to a deepened harbor and our future export capabilities."
Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), "The House's passage of the Water Resource Reform and Development Act that included a critical authorization for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project is a great victory for the United States and the state of Georgia. I applaud Chairman Shuster and the House for its support and for recognizing the huge economic impact of this project, which will bring $174 million in annual net benefits to the United States and create 11,554 jobs. I remain committed to seeing this project through to the very end."
Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA-1), "Georgia's deep water ports support 352,000 jobs in our state and service more than 21,000 companies throughout the country. Passage of this bill is a critical step toward ensuring this economic engine can continue its vital role in our regional and national economy. Deepening the harbor will free up $213 million in private capital each year that can be invested in job creation and business expansion. For every dollar invested in the project, there is a $5.50 return. Let's get this bill signed into law and this important project underway."
Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-GA-2), "In addition to improving access to critical waterways, this bill will create jobs and boost our economy by opening access to vital infrastructure projects across the country. The Savannah Port will be a major driver of economic development throughout the entire state. Dredging of the Savannah River is long overdue, and once this bill is enacted into law, larger cargo ships will be one step closer to traveling and trading through our world-class port."
Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA-3), "Georgia ports are one of the biggest drivers of our state's economy and account for about one out of every 12 jobs in the state. That's why it's so important to support projects like the one to deepen the Savannah port. I am so proud that our state's delegation worked tirelessly together to make sure that the Water Resources Reform and Development Act included funding to deepen the Savannah port so we can remain an integral part of our country's shipping industry. I also want to reassure you that WRRDA once again reinforced that the water debate between Georgia, Alabama, and Florida is something that should be decided among the states -- without congressional involvement."
Rep. Tom Price (R-GA-6), "The passage of this water resources and infrastructure bill is a victory for Georgia families. It will help strengthen our local economy, save taxpayer dollars and eliminate wasteful government red tape. Appropriately, it avoids contributing to any efforts that would deny Georgia access to vital resources and harm our state's economy. Moreover, this legislation will help our state and local leaders better plan and take concrete steps towards preparing the Port of Savannah to be able to accept the larger cargo ships of the future, a key component to helping grow our economy and create jobs. At a time when the government spends too much and gets too little in return, WRRDA contains no earmarks, mandates crucial Congressional oversight and provides for the deauthorization of existing programs to offset any new authorizations. This is an economically critical reform and infrastructure bill."
Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA-7), "Certainly, today's bill is not perfect, but it absolutely moves us in the right direction for water infrastructure planning. The bill is critical to Georgia because it both clears the final hurdles for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project--arguably the largest economic development and job creation initiative in the State--and by rebuffing attempts by Alabama and Florida to use the bill to hijack the water in Lake Lanier. Both of these successes mean more job growth in the 7th district of Georgia and that's good news. Moreover, the bill reduces federal bureaucratic red tape and returns decision making power to states. These steps reduce time necessary to get a federal construction permit in many cases by more than a decade. With the addition of provisions guaranteeing strong Congressional oversight of the Administration's activities, this bill is a win for taxpayers and a catalyst for long-term economic growth."
Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA-8), "This legislation is great news for our state, where Savannah's port plays a crucial role in our agriculture and manufacturing industries and is a driving force of our local economies. Improving and strengthening our ports and waterways will create jobs and guarantee America remains a competitive player in the global economy."
Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA-9), "This legislation gives Northeast Georgia the freedom to plan for the future of our beautiful lakes as we see fit, and it gets Georgia farm produce out into the markets more efficiently. WRRDA is a win for Georgia, it's a win for American competitiveness, and it's a win for the Constitution."
Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA-10), "This bill will help boost Georgia's economy and create jobs by allowing the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project to finally move forward. It is vital that the Administration make deepening the port a top priority and that we continue to work towards completion of this project. At the same time, I'm pleased that this legislation leaves out any attacks by other states on Georgia's water supply. While we have been successful in this effort thus far, it is important that we remain vigilant as we move towards a House/Senate conference."
Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA-11), "Deepening the Port of Savannah is the single-most important economic development project in Georgia and the Southeast. Expanding the nation's fastest-growing harbor and fourth-busiest port will create jobs, retain and attract businesses, and maintain our competitive advantage. This legislation invests in our state's most vital infrastructure project while leaving water usage negotiations to the states. Preserving access to our drinking water is of critical importance to Georgia families and businesses and I will continue working to protect it."
Rep. John Barrow (D-GA-12), "For decades, the Georgia Ports Authority has worked with our federal partners to deepen the Savannah Harbor. This critical infrastructure project will have a positive impact on nearly every county in the State of Georgia, and brings the good-paying jobs to our region that we all agree we need. Our entire delegation has been united in our efforts to see this project through, and we're finally crossing that final barrier with passage of this bill. We're grateful for the bipartisan work of the Congressional committees to move this bill, and look forward to seeing construction begin at the Port of Savannah."
Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA-14), "This project is vital to our state and the country in many ways, but in simple terms, it means we'll have new jobs and opportunities for a lot of Georgia families. Those supertankers will arrive at the harbor full of goods, and Georgia businesses will make sure they leave full. I applaud the Georgia delegation for working together to secure this victory for our constituents."
President Obama and the Army Corps of Engineers have deemed the Port of Savannah a "nationally and regionally significant infrastructure project."
Studies by the Army Corps of Engineers show a 5.5-to-1 benefit to cost ratio, meaning that for every dollar spent on the deepening, the nation will reap $5.50 in benefits.
According to the Georgia Ports Authority, Georgia's deep water ports and inland barge terminals support more than 352,000 jobs throughout the state annually and contribute $18.5 billion in income, $66.9 billion in revenue and $2.5 billion in state and local taxes to Georgia's economy.
On May 15, 2013, the U.S. Senate passed its version of the bill by a vote of 83-14. The House and Senate must reconcile their differences before sending a final bill to the president to sign into law.