Today, the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee unanimously voted to advance the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2018 which would provide for improvements to America's ports, inland waterways, locks, dams, flood protection, ecosystem restoration and other water resources, setting up the measure for full House consideration. The legislation includes a critical increase in the authorized cost of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP) to ensure the completion of Georgia's top economic priority remains on schedule. Representatives Drew Ferguson (Ga.-03) and Rob Woodall (Ga.-07) both serve on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and supported its passage following today's markup of the bill.
"I commend Chairman Shuster for ensuring the committee works through a regular WRDA process. WRDA is essential to preserving and modernizing our nation's water infrastructure to keep us competitive on the global stage," Ferguson said. "The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project is critical to promoting trade in the state of Georgia, and this year's bill includes language that would allow the project to continue to move forward. Investing in landmark infrastructure projects like SHEP ensures that the United States will continue to be the best place in the world to do business in a 21st century economy."
Georgia has indeed been a leading investor in the project since inception, with Governor Deal being one of its biggest advocates. The Governor also voiced support for the House bill following Committee passage.
"I applaud Rep. Woodall, Rep. Ferguson and the Georgia delegation for their continued efforts on behalf of the deepening of the Port of Savannah," Governor Deal added. "This bill is another important step forward to ensuring this project receives support and resources from the federal government. Georgia taxpayers have already invested more than $300 million to fund the state's full local share for SHEP to further establish Georgia's role as a gateway for global commerce. As Georgia has fulfilled its commitment, we continue to look to the federal government to provide its promised share of funding to ensure that construction on this internationally-recognized project progresses steadily, resources are allocated efficiently and taxpayer dollars are spent appropriately."
Another important aspect of the bill had more to do with what was not in it than what was. In recent years, WRDA has often been the mechanism of choice for Florida and Alabama's efforts to influence the tri-state water negotiations.
"There is no more important resource than water and our water infrastructure. Protecting it, while also making the necessary investments to better serve the people of Georgia, has long-been one of my top priorities," said Woodall. "As Georgians, we're not afraid to put our own money where our mouth is and lead by example. We've done that from the earliest days of SHEP, and that leadership is invaluable in securing the federal partnership we see in this bill. Having a Savannah Harbor that is fully equipped to accommodate large carriers and the needs of a global economy is of benefit to Georgia, yes, but it is also of tremendous value to the southeastern region of the nation, and I'm proud to be able to serve Georgia in this way."
WRDA's unanimous committee approval was also lauded by Georgia Ports Authority Chief Administrative Officer Jamie McCurry, saying, "We appreciate the continued commitment by Georgia's Congressional delegation to keep this critical project on track. It is a vital part of maintaining our state's economic momentum and creating even more employment opportunities for Georgians."
As the nation's fastest growing and fourth-busiest container port, the Port of Savannah handles more than three million twenty-foot equivalent container units per year for more than 21,000 U.S. businesses. It is also the largest single-terminal container facility of its kind in North America.