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Kemp, lawmakers asking for another harbor deepening
Kemp, lawmakers asking for another harbor deepening
Gov. Brian Kemp was at the Port of Savannah on Monday to urge Congress to pass the Water Resources Development bill, which includes funding for a study to deepen and widen the Port of Savannah. Along with Gov. Kemp were Georgia members of the U.S. Buddy Carter and Mike Collins and Missouri’s Sam Graves, who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Photo by Barbara Augsdorfer/Effingham Herald

By Barbara Augsdorfer, Effingham Herald

SAVANNAH — Gov. Brian Kemp pushed Monday for the continued growth of the Savannah ports as more and larger containers move through its facilities.

Joined by U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler), whose 1st District includes the port, fellow Georgia U.S. Rep. Mike Collins (R-Jackson) and chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Rep. Sam Graves (R-Missouri), Kemp urged investment in the Port of Savannah in a study that is part of a bill now in the Transportation and Infrastructure committee in the House.

A Georgia Ports Authority spokesperson said that in the past, containers that were 20 feet in length have been replaced by containers that are 40 feet in length, and weighing twice as much. A deeper and wider waterway would allow the port to handle more ships and the heavier loads.

“Government needs to move at the speed of our economy,” Gov. Kemp said.

Carter pointed out the ports of Savannah and Brunswick are drivers for the coastal Georgia economy and throughout the southeastern U.S.

“The impact that these ports have reaches all the way up into the Ohio Valley,” Rep. Carter said. “Constant investment is the key.”

The bill authorizing the study to deepen and widen the port is part of the Water Resources Development bill, which authorizes all the water infrastructure bills in the country. Graves added the bill should be on the floor of Congress this summer.

“It should be a very good bipartisan bill,” Graves said.

A deepening of the harbor from 42 to 47 feet was completed two years ago, at a cost of more than $970 million.

Gov. Kemp added the deepening and widening of the port should consider protecting the North Atlantic right whale. He asked for support to defeat a proposed rule from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that would limit vessels larger than 35 feet to 10 knots per hour within 100 miles of the port. Ten knots is equivalent to about 11.5 mph.

“We also need your help to pass legislation which protects the North Atlantic right whale, but does so without creating an extremely dangerous and inefficient operating environment for our mariners,” Gov. Kemp said.

NOAA has proposed the “10 knot” rule that would force ships to not exceed 10 knots in areas where the right whale has been spotted to potentially reduce whale injuries and fatalities from boat strikes.

Collins said the 10 knot rule would destroy that provides $84 billion to the economy and leads to 340,000 jobs.

“I’ve got it in the base text in the appropriations bill for this year to kill that rule,” Collins added.

Collins said the industry has come up with a way to fix the problem.

“It’s very easily fixable. But as usual, our federal government in their infinite wisdom, comes up with the worst way to do things,” Collins said.

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