House and Senate lawmakers this week reached an agreement on a huge water infrastructure bill that authorizes improvements for ports, inland waterways and flood protection, and includes emergency aid for addressing lead contamination in Flint, Mich.’s water system.
The compromise water infrastructure bill contains a modernized cost-sharing formula for future channel deepening projects, which would increase the minimum depth required for a 50-50 federal-state funding split from 45 to 50 feet.
The inclusion of Charleston and Port Everglades in the bill will open the door for both projects to receive federal funds. Plans include for the port of Charleston to deepen the current entrance channel from 47 feet to 54 feet and deepen the inner harbor from 45 feet to 52 feet, which would make Charleston the deepest harbor on the US East Coast. Port Everglades plans include deepening the main navigational channel there from 42 feet to 48 feet and also deepening and widening the port’s entrance channel and parts of the Intracoastal Waterway so that cargo ships can pass safely by docked cruise ships. Both harbor projects aim to prepare their respective ports for the arrival of mega-ships traversing a recently expanded Panama Canal, whose new locks can now handle ships with capacities of up to 14,000 twenty-foot-equivalent units, nearly triple the size of the ships that historically have transited the canal’s century-old waterway.
The House Rules Committee is scheduled to review the bill on Wednesday, December 7th
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