Charleston Harbor has been a key economic driver for more than 300 years. With the deepest water in the region today, Charleston offers a maintained harbor of -45 feet (13.7 meters) of depth at mean low tide throughout the main shipping channel and -47 feet (14.3 m) in the entrance channel. A five to six foot tidal lift provides even deeper access for several hours during the day.
In addition to having deep water now, the Port of Charleston is advancing a next-generation harbor deepening project. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed the project's reconnaissance study in the summer of 2010 and determined that there is not only a federal interest in the further deepening of Charleston Harbor, but also that it was most likely the best value for scarce public dollars. The project is currently in the feasibility phase, with a commitment from the Corps to an accelerated time frame.
The post-45-foot feasibility study examines the economic benefits and environmental impacts of the deepening project and determines what depth would be recommended for construction. The South Carolina Ports Authority has signed the cost-sharing agreement with the Corps and has agreed to accelerate its half of the study cost to the Corps to initiate the work. The Ports Authority will provide around $2 million to the Corps for ongoing work in fiscal year 2012.
The feasibility study is now firmly underway for the post-45 project, with the federal share of the study’s cost more than halfway funded. On the state level, South Carolina’s Legislature is setting aside funds toward the estimated $300 million in construction costs.
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