SAVANNAH - Plans to deepen the Port of Savannah's busy shipping channel have taken a big step forward with the U.S. House giving its final approval to authorizing $12 billion for water projects nationwide.
The House's 412-4 vote Tuesday would remove a final bureaucratic hurdle to deepening the Savannah harbor to make room for giant ships. The Senate still must approve the measure, which raises the project's spending limit to $706 million.
Gov. Nathan Deal calls the House vote a ``critical victory.'' Georgia officials hope to get dredging started by the end of 2014.
Twelve of Georgia's 14 House members voted to pass the bill. Republican Rep. Paul Broun of Athens and Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson of Lithonia were absent as they stayed in Georgia to campaign in Georgia's primary elections.