A water infrastructure act that will greatly benefit the Port of Charleston conforms to the intended purpose of reform of the way federal funds are disbursed, according to a South Carolina congressman.
Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) warmly welcomed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, signed into law by then-President Barack Obama just before Christmas. It includes hundreds of millions of dollars for the harbor deepening at Charleston, a crucial move for the port following the widening of the Panama Canal.
The funds for the project will be disbursed on merit, nor earmarks, a result of 2014 reform passed by Congress, Sanford said. All projects must now be vetted and studied by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers before moving forward and then must be approved by Congress.
Sanford described the act authorizing funding for water infrastructure improvements as a “clear coup” for the Port of Charleston.
“The Port of Charleston is one of the fastest growing ports in one of the fastest growing regions in America,” Sanford told the Palmetto Business Daily. “Its ability to expand capacity and better serve customers was contingent upon a necessary deepening of the Charleston Harbor.”
The bill authorizes funding for a range of projects across the country, including $231 million in federal funding for the port’s harbor deepening project. With the widening of the Panama Canal, Charleston will need to be able to accommodate the larger ships that will follow.
“As the gateway for billions in economic activity, the Port of Charleston has been a driving force in attracting both foreign and domestic investments, particularly in the aviation and automotive industries...from BMW and Daimler to Boeing and Volvo,” Sanford said. “But I also think it’s important to see the larger picture, which is the impact all the projects in the bill will have on our national economy. With the rise in post-Panamax ships and a widening Panama Canal, the state of our nation’s ports is a concern. This bill helps us accommodate these larger shipping vessels by upgrading our ports, through which 99 percent of U.S. overseas cargo moves.”
It is good news not just for Charleston, but also the wider South Carolina economy. The act also provides $31 million for Edisto Island beach re-nourishment. The water infrastructure act is a template upon which many other projects, including transportation in its various forms, could be funded, Sanford believes.
“This bill brought forward a process that could apply to a whole host of infrastructure needs well beyond that of water-related resources -- and represented the most important reason to support this bill,” Sanford added in a recent blog post.
Obama said the act “authorizes vital water projects across the country to restore watersheds, improve waterways and flood control, and improve drinking water infrastructure.”
Among other measures, it authorizes $170 million for communities facing drinking water emergencies, including funding for Flint, Michigan, to recover from the lead contamination in its drinking water system. It also includes ways to resolve long-standing disputes over water rights in four Indian settlements, and has short-term and long-term provisions related to addressing the continuing drought in California.