CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- The Charleston Harbor is now 52 feet deep after the eighth project to dig to a greater depth in the harbor’s history.
The project finished two years ahead of schedule on Monday as local and state officials met to celebrate.
“When we targeted 52 feet we did that so we could host a lot of exports. The Southeast region is well known for heavy exporting commodities,” said Barbara Melvin, the CEO of the South Carolina Ports Authority. “Then of course we can host first in calls for imports. What we now offer as the deepest harbor on the east coast is the ability for our ocean carrier customers to transit our harbor with no restrictions for 24 hours seven days a week.”
The shipping channel’s new depth allows for two ships to come and go at once regardless of the tidal restrictions for the first time ever.
“This depth makes us more competitive. This depth attracts more investment and business to our state,” said Melvin.
“‘Any time, any tide, any day,’ I don’t think anyone else can say that. But, it’s taken a long time to get here,” said Governor Henry McMaster. “This is what cooperation, collaboration and communication looks like. It doesn’t happen without a lot of people with a lot of thought doing a lot of work.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and multiple dredging partners helped make the project a reality.
“2.5 million community man hours removed enough material out of the water that could fill 12,000 Olympic sized swimming pools,” said Brigadier General Daniel Hibner, the South Atlantic Division Commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Before the process began, there were years of work to get the project to the starting line. Both former presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump supported the harbor deepening.
“For about a decade we have been pushing, prodding, begging, pleading and yelling. Most people don’t understand how close we came to failing three times,” said Senator Lindsey Graham. “I can promise you that if we did not succeed the economy of South Carolina would be fundamentally changed in the 21st century.”
Elected officials say that more projects need to be completed in order to make sure the prosperity of Charleston’s port terminals continues.
“(The project being completed) means more traffic on the roads. That means we have to get the roads paved and widened,” said Governor McMaster.
“Currently we’re working on the Water Resources Development Act. We have about eight or nine projects that are going to get funding. We want to make sure that they’re mostly for water projects. Any funding that we can get for the port through that mechanism is something we’re working on before the end of the year,” said Representative Nancy Mace.