CHARLESTON — The Obama Administration says that the $300 million deepening of the Charleston Harbor shipping channel along with projects at four other ports is nationally significant and promised Wednesday to expedite the work.
The White House released a statement saying the work will be expedited under the federal "We Can't Wait" program. The other ports are Savannah, Jacksonville, Miami and the Port of New York and New Jersey. The administration says additional projects to be expedited will be announced in the coming months.
The president issued an executive order in March to have the Office of Management and Budget oversee efforts to smooth the permitting and review process for infrastructure projects.
Last week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced work to streamline the permitting process for the Charleston project has already paid off. The review of the project will be done more quickly and, if everything goes as planned, the deepening could be complete by 2020, about four years earlier than originally projected.
The corps said that involving the public and resource agencies earlier in the planning process has saved time and money. And the number of required studies is being streamlined.
Ports around the nation are working to deepen their shipping channels to handle the larger container ships that will be calling once the Panama Canal is widened in 2014.
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called the announcement "very good news and a recognition the rest of the country now understands what we've known all along -- Charleston Harbor deepening is a critical project for our state, region, and national economy."
U.S. Rep Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., said that following the corps' announcement last week the Wednesday announcement shows the administration's support of the project.
"More than just a parochial initiative, expediting the deepening the Charleston Harbor will improve our nation's infrastructure and create jobs," he said.