Key federal bill that would boost port funds heads to House - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Key bill that would boost port funding goes to House

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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project is closer to moving forward after a key federal bill is passed through the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston accompanied the committee's chairman at the Port of Savannah.

In the coming weeks, the Water Resource Development Act will go to the House floor. The bill, which increases the amount of money that can be spent on the harbor expansion, passed the committee and will soon head to the floor. Because of the strong bipartisan support for the project, there is strong optimism that the bill will pass this session.

"It's a project now we have all seen grown tremendously in public support but not just all over the state of Georgia and not just with all parties but nationally," Kingston said.

Kingston welcomed Pennsylvania U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster at the Georgia Ports Authority on Wednesday morning. Shuster is the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and has been instrumental in helping the Water Resource Development Act move forward. The U.S. Senate has already passed its version of the water bill.

"There is a federal role in these types of projects and there has been 230 years our waterways our ports our harbors are absolutely critical to the health of the nation's economy," Shuster said. 

Shuster said for every $1 invested in the project, the U.S. economy will see $5.50 in return on the project. He believes it will make it all the way through this legislative session.

"I think there's a high, high probability that we're going to have a water bill this year. As I said when you deal with issues like this that have a bipartisan support - everybody believes," Shuster said. 

The bill authorizes the amount of money that can be spent on the project. But it will be the federal budget that will provide the main source of money. The state of Georgia has already set aside $231 million for the project, which is ready to be used once the bill is passed. Having just returned from a tour of the Panama Canal, Deal has more support for the project than ever.

"They anticipate that they will be finished in the sometime in the middle of 2015, and that's the reason we need to get started as quickly as possible because our projects is a three to four year dredging project. I'm going to be pushing, again, as soon as we get that last technical hurdle taken care of for us to move as quickly as possible to start the dredging," Deal said. 

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