The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP) will deepen the Savannah Harbor federal shipping channel from a depth of -42 feet to -47 feet. Studies demonstrate the deepening will produce substantial economic benefits for the nation by enabling larger and more heavily-loaded vessels to call on the harbor with fewer tidal delays.
The total project cost estimate is currently $706 million. The SHEP is expected to net more than $174 million in annual benefits to the nation and has a benefit-to-cost ratio of $5.50 for every $1 invested. Costs of the studies and construction are shared between the U.S. government and the state of Georgia.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the lead federal agency for the project. All studies and plans required close coordination and approval from three other federal agencies: the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Given the proximity of the shipping channel to sensitive estuarine resources, the Corps, along with its state and federal partners, conducted exhaustive engineering and environmental studies to identify the environmental impacts that would be expected from the project and ensure those impacts will be offset through mitigation. Mitigation accounts for approximately half of the project cost.
Environmental mitigation features include installing a dissolved oxygen system; constructing a fish bypass upstream at the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam; re-routing freshwater flow in the upper harbor; preserving 2,245 acres of freshwater wetlands for the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge; and recovering remnants of the CSS Georgia civil war ironclad that rests some 40 feet below the river's surface.
The Corps has positioned itself to be able to proceed with the construction phase as Congress and the non-federal sponsor, the Georgia Ports Authority, provide the needed funding. The estimated time frame for construction is 5 years.