CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV)-- A press conference was held Wednesday to provide updates on the Charleston Harbor Post 45 feasibility study that began last summer.Representatives of the Army Corps of Engineers said the feasibility study is still underway but it will cost $5 million less than originally thought and should be done four years from now.This cost reduction is due to the corps looking at more cost effective ways to complete the study over the past year. Once it's completed, they will offer their findings to Congress for approval.Earlier this year, $3.5 million toward the feasibility study of Charleston's Harbor Deepening Project was included in the President's Budget for fiscal year 2013. That, along with the funds already included in the Corps' Work Plan, means that the federal share of the feasibility study is more than halfway funded.Last month, the South Carolina Legislature committed $300 million to fund the construction of a post-45-foot harbor project for the Port of Charleston. This could cover the estimated cost to deepen the harbor to 50 feet, once the project receives authorization from Congress.Already the deepest harbor in the region, Charleston's deepening project would open the port to the biggest ships 24 hours a day, under any tidal condition. The Corps stated in its Reconnaissance Study in 2010 that Charleston is likely "the cheapest South Atlantic harbor to deepen to 50 feet."
"The deepening of Charleston Harbor is the number one strategic priority for this port community," said Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA). "We are encouraged by today's news that Charleston's deepening project will be considered a national example for completing studies more expeditiously."