Home > Missions > Civil Works > Savannah Harbor Expansion

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. 

SHEP Project Updates

Collapse All Expand All
Editor’s Note: This article is authored by Oscar P. Flite III, Ph.D. CEO and Senior Scientist at Phinizy Center for Water Sciences. Dr. Flite and his organization are involved in scientific research on the Savannah River that provides critical information needed to make informed decisions about the basin’s natural resources.

SAVANNAH, Ga. – Ensuring healthy water quality is an essential part of environmental monitoring for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP). The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is partnering with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to monitor water quality in the estuary using a sophisticated network of continuous monitoring stations.

Thanks to a partnership between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SC DNR), researchers are safely catching sturgeon, inserting sonic transmitters inside them, and releasing them back into the river. The sturgeon studies are required as part of the Corps' pre-construction monitoring plan for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project.

Click here to read article.

With the signing of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 earlier this year, many people expected construction of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP) to start immediately. However, several actions need to take place before construction can occur.

“Environmental monitoring ranks high in the hierarchy of actions that must take place before construction begins,” according to Jason O’Kane, senior project manager for the SHEP with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District. “Some of the pre-construction environmental monitoring takes a year or longer to accomplish before we can begin any work.” Read Article


Archeologists working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District, aided by divers and salvage operations teams from the U.S. Navy, retrieved a 64-square foot section of a Civil War ironclad warship from the bottom of the Savannah River the evening of Nov. 12, 2013. The divers worked in strong currents with near-zero visibility during the past week to assess the possibility of lifting a small piece of the Confederate ship’s casemate for archeological testing. A crane lifted it onto a barge anchored near historic Old Fort Jackson on the eastern edge of Savannah. Experts estimate the piece weighs more than 5,000 pounds. View News Release

Previous studies concluded that construction of the SHEP would increase salinity and chloride concentrations in the Savannah River Estuary, including Abercorn Creek. To compensate for potential impacts to the City of Savannah’s Industrial and Domestic Water Treatment Plant in Port Wentworth, Ga., from increases in salinity at their raw water intake in Abercorn Creek, a Raw Water Storage
Impoundment was included as part of the SHEP.

Detailed design studies performed by Savannah District after completion of the SHEP EIS indicate that modifications are needed to the location and design of the impoundment. A parcel near Interstate Highway 95 and the City of Savannah’s raw water pipeline was identified as the best location. View documents on the Savannah District's Plans and Reports page.



Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy signed the Record of Decision for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, known as SHEP, Oct. 26, 2012. The Record of Decision confirms that the proposed plan for Savannah Harbor channel improvements, including the associated mitigation, is in the national interest and meets the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. The decision also allows the project’s advancement to the construction phase. This action represents the culmination of thirteen years of comprehensive studies and extensive agency coordination as required by Congress in the 1999 Water Resources Development Act.
Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Headquarters, marked the agency's approval of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project by signing the "Chief's Report" Aug. 17, 2012.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District released the final General Re-evaluation Report (GRR) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to evaluate deepening the Savannah Harbor Federal Navigation Project to a maximum authorized depth of -48 feet as authorized by the Water Resources Development Act of 1999. The current authorized depth is -42 feet. The studies evaluated the engineering, environmental, and economic acceptability of various alternatives for the present and future harbor conditions over a 50-year analysis period.

Recommended improvements include: channel deepening from the sea through the harbor Entrance Channel to the Garden City Terminal to an authorized depth of -47 feet; channel widening to create meeting areas at Long Island and Oglethorpe Ranges; widening and deepening of the Kings Island Turning Basin; and channel widening at three bends. Recommended mitigation features include: preservation of 2,245 acres of freshwater wetlands; restoration of 28 acres of brackish marsh; construction of a fish bypass around the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam near Augusta, Georgia; installation, operation, and maintenance of oxygen injection systems at three locations in the lower Savannah River; construction of boat ramp on Hutchinson Island; construction of a raw water impoundment for water withdrawn from Abercorn Creek by the City of Savannah; and data recovery, removal and conservation of the remains of the CSS Georgia .

Savannah Harbor Photos