Corps gets $6.5 million for harbor dredging – Coastal Observer


Corps gets $6.5 million for harbor dredging

Depths in the channel are now less than 2 feet in some places.

The Army Corps of Engineers expects to dredge the channel along the Georgetown waterfront  to a depth of 12 feet with funding included in the federal budget last week.

The $6.5 million was included in the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill last spring by Sen. Lindsay Graham, who serves on the Appropriations Committee.

The dredging project is a priority for the city and Georgetown County, which took ownership of the former State Ports Authority on the Sampit River last year. The transfer also included about 200 acres that were designated as a disposal site for dredge spoils from the harbor.

That will be the first place the Corps looks as it starts work on the project.

“Due to the preceding, long-term absence of federal funds for the project prior to this allocation, it is anticipated that the first step will be for upland placement areas to be inspected and if necessary, prepared to receive dredge materials,” said Glenn Jeffries, chief of communications for the Charleston District. “Upon completion of any upland placement work, priority shoals and areas of the federal channel are expected to be dredged to a 12-foot depth, which coincides with the depth of the adjacent Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.”

Georgetown County funded a study of the harbor that found the water depth at the western end of the channel was below 2 feet in some areas. Along the Harborwalk, the depth is 7 to 8 feet. 

Engineers estimated the cost of dredging at $3.5 million plus design and permitting. Since then, the cost estimate rose to $5.2 million, County Administrator Angela Christian said.

The county has $6 million set aside for port dredging that was raised from a capital projects sale tax in place from 2015 to 2019. The money was intended to help fund dredging of the shipping channel through Winyah Bay, but the project cost turned out to be more than twice the original estimate. It was scrapped.

As port traffic declined, the Corps stopped dredging the harbor. The county study, completed in 2022, found that toxic materials had settled in the sediment in the channel that would have to be addressed in the dredging and in the spoils disposal to make sure they don’t enter the water.

Christian said the sales tax revenue could help cover any additional costs for the project.

“We still have to get the permit,” she added.

Council Member Bob Anderson said he hopes the $6 million can be used for port improvements rather than dredging.



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