The plan to deepen Charleston Harbour shipping channel has just one more hurdle to clear – in the US Congress – before construction work proper can begin on the project.
That’s after the latest development, an official thumbs-up from the federal Office of Management and Budget.
Next the project must be approved by Congress for the $202m federal share of the $510m total cost.
The plan is to deepen the channel from 45 ft to 52 ft with an entrance channel depth of 54 feet.
That would make Charleston, in South Carolina, the deepest port on the US East Coast and well equipped to receive the anticipated wave of very large vessels once the Panama Canal expansion is complete, possibly in May. Another part of the project would see the turning basins expanded to accommodate the mega-sized ships.
The OMB’s approval was announced by the office of South Carolina Republican senator Lyndsey Graham. “This is fantastic news for the Charleston port and our state’s economy,” Graham said in the statement.
Supporters of the deepening say it will lead go big economic benefits for South Carolina, neighbouring states and the whole southeast.
Deepening the harbour was identified by the administration of President Barack Obama as an urgently needed infrastructure upgrade.
In September last year the US Army Corps of Engineers gave its official recommendation that the deepening go ahead, the last major step before this OMB decision.
The OMB is the largest office of the US Executive branch and its main function is to check that government agency programmes comply with the president’s policies.
The Pre-construction, Engineering and Design (PED) phase of the Charleston Harbour deepening project is already under way, marking the final major phase of the deepening process before construction begins.