The fate of Savannah’s harbor deepening may be in federal limbo, but state officials are confident of making it a reality.
Earlier this week, the White House said it can’t let the harbor expansion move ahead until Congress passes a multi-billion-dollar water bill that’s been stuck in committee since last fall.
“I think that’s a matter of interpretation,” Gov. Nathan Deal said Thursday evening, reiterating a commitment to use state funds to move the project forward.
Deal said a separate bill passed by Congress in January is what counts.
“What passed was language in the omnibus appropriations bill, which kept the government open, which is a law,” said Deal “It provided a two-year window in which this project was considered to be in the construction stage. (That) gave us the authorization to move forward.”
Deal’s comments were made during the Savannah-Chatham Day seafood roast, an annual event in which state legislators, lobbyists and power brokers mingle, drink and shuck oysters with Savannah’s elected leaders and business community.
No topic was more widely discussed than the harbor deepening, with many elected leaders expressing frustration at the exclusion of the project in President Obama’s most recent fiscal budget.
U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Savannah, said he assumed the president was on board with allowing deepening through the two-year fix passed in January.
“We had what the president told us they would do, then we had Plan B, so now Plan B becomes Plan A,” said Kingston.
Other elected officials said they were confident the project would get approval, regardless of who needed to do the approving.
“Authorization is just another process,” said state Sen. Lester Jackson, D-Savannah. “It doesn’t mean we can’t do it, we just have to ask.”