clear
Saturday May 28th, 2016 8:23PM

Gov. Deal in Panama to tour canal expansion

By The Associated Press
ATLANTA (AP) Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said Monday that the major Panama Canal expansion that's underway underscores the need for the Port of Savannah to deepen its shipping channel.

Deal was in Panama to tour the canal. He said in a phone interview that he was impressed with the scope of the work being done there to make way for super-sized cargo ships.

"They are making substantial progress," Deal said, adding that the Panama Canal project was on track to be completed in early to mid-2015.

Meanwhile, Georgia's effort to deepen 30 miles of the Savannah River to accommodate the larger ships is waiting on Congress to eliminate a final bureaucratic hurdle. The Port of Savannah is the fourth-busiest container port in the U.S. The deepening effort also needs substantial construction funding from the federal government, which is supposed to cover 70 percent of the project.

Ports along the East Coast have been working on federal permits and funding to deepen their shipping channels to accommodate the larger ships that will soon be passing through the Panama Canal. On the East Coast, only the ports of New York, Baltimore and Norfolk, Va., have water deepen enough to accommodate the ships with full loads and at lower tides.

In Georgia, port officials have received the required permits, but the $652 million project has been held up because when Congress authorized the project in 1999, it had a spending cap of $459 million. In May, the Senate approved the higher cost as part of a larger water projects bill that still must pass the House.

Deal said the state is eager to start spending its money to begin deepening the Savannah shipping channel to accommodate the larger ships. Georgia lawmakers have allocated $231 million for the project.

"If it was up to Georgia, we would have been dredging a long time ago," the Republican governor said.

During the last fiscal year, state ports in Savannah and Brunswick handled a combined 27.23 million tons of imports and exports, an increase of 2.4 percent over the previous fiscal year. Revenues at Georgia's ports totaled nearly $293 million, up $9 million from the previous year.

Last week, Vice President Joe Biden visited the Port of Savannah and pledged: ``We are going to get this done, as my grandfather would say, come hell or high water.'' Biden reiterated the Obama administration's support for the project and called the infrastructure work a critical tool to help grow the economy. He called on Congress to find money for the project.

As soon as the final bill is passed to raise the spending cap, Deal said he plans to seek permission to start using the state funds so that work can begin.

``Time is of the essence,'' Deal said, noting that the Savannah project has already missed the opportunity to meet the 2015 deadline of the Panama Canal expansion. ``The sooner we can start the better.''

Deal is scheduled to return to Georgia on Tuesday.
© Copyright 2016 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Missing Ga. bank director arrested in Brunswick
A bank director accused of losing millions of investors' dollars before vanishing last year was arrested Tuesday during a traffic stop in a city in south Georgia.
7:00PM ( 2 years ago )
S&P 500 index has its best year since 1997
The stock market closed out a record year with more all-time highs on Tuesday, giving U.S. indexes their biggest annual gains in almost two decades.
6:56PM ( 2 years ago )
Colorado readies for 'Green Wednesday' pot sales
Police were adding extra patrols around pot shops in eight Colorado towns that plan to allow recreational sales to anyone over 21 on Jan. 1.
1:52PM ( 2 years ago )
Business News
Sex offender held in Hall County for failing to register
A 47-year-old man was booked into the Hall County Jail Tuesday, being held without bond for allegedly failing to register as a sex offender, his second such arrest.
6:09PM ( 2 years ago )
Pharmacy robberies may involve same suspect
Oakwood Police Tuesday afternoon released details in a pharmacy robbery they're investigating, similar to one that happened in the Hall County Tuesday morning.
5:46PM ( 2 years ago )
Victim critical following apartment fire
A 41-year-old woman was in critical but stable condition Tuesday after being rescued from an apartment fire in Forsyth County late Monday afternoon.
3:16PM ( 2 years ago )
Local/State News
Police find female body in Lake Lanier
Gainesville police recovered a female body from Lake Lanier near Lanier Point Park Saturday afternoon.
7:50PM ( 33 minutes ago )
Four people arrested after Hall drug agents uncover meth lab
Four people have been arrested after a small methamphetamine lab was found earlier this week in the crawl space of a house in North Hall.
6:00PM ( 2 hours ago )
GDOT approves location, design for new I-985 interchange in South Hall
​The Georgia Department of Transportation has approved the location and design of a new interchange on I-985 in South Hall which will include a new, four-lane connector road.
2:00PM ( 6 hours ago )
Commerce Police ask for help ID'ing suspect in strong armed robbery
According to the Commerce Police Department FaceBook page, a strong-arm robbery took place Friday night at the Flying J on Highway 98 at I-85.
By AccessWDUN staff
1:21PM ( 7 hours ago )
Drought conditions worsen, now cover all of north Georgia
​Drought conditions in Georgia continue to worsen and now encompass all of north Georgia.
11:58AM ( 8 hours ago )