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Mayor Reed and Vice President Biden push to widen Savannah Port

9:59 PM, Sep 16, 2013   |    comments
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SAVANNAH, Ga. -- On Monday, Vice President Joe Biden visited the Port of Savannah to show his support for a decades long plan to deepen the harbor.

The project would allow the port to accommodate the larger post-Panamax vessels that will be able to clear the Panama Canal by the end of 2015.

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The Port of Savannah is one of the country's busiest ports, and to keep it that way the port authority has lobbied to deepen the Savannah River by five feet so the ships can get in.

But Biden's visit was more of a pep rally than announcement of any progress.  The Port Authority reached an agreement on environmental concerns in May, but Congress has failed to pass the legislation needed to access the $400 million in federal funds needed to pay for the project.

"Seventy five percent of all commerce in the world is in the belly or deck of a ship floating out there in the high seas. 75%. And what are we doing? We're arguing over whether or not to deepen this port. It's time to get moving," said Biden.

The state has already committed its $230 million.

Mayor Kasim Reed joined Biden on the visit, along with Senators Saxby Chambliss, Johnny Isakson.  They say the project is necessary to keep Georgia business friendly and competitive.

The new vessels are expected to save companies up to 40% on shipping. Considering $11 billion, nearly half of all exports in Georgia stem from metro Atlanta, the mayor says he doesn't want to lose the 181,000 local jobs associated with the port, or the tax revenue.

"Do you believe we should have built Hartsfield Jackson airport? This is a similar decision in terms of long term impact," said Reed.

Senator Isakson says he doesn't understand the delay, passing the Water Resource Development Act in the House.

"It's 400 million in federal funds and its probably two or three trillion dollars in federal revenues. I'll take a net revenue increase any time," he said.

"We are going to get this done come hell or high water," said Biden.

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