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2nd contract awarded to dredge harbor entrance channel to 54 feet

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A second contract has been awarded by the Army Corps of Engineers on the project to deepen the Charleston Harbor entrance channel so that the largest ships can dock at the port regardless of tides.

The $213 million contract award is for the removal of nearly 8 million cubic yards of material from the entrance channel, the Army Corps said in a news release. Combined with a $47 million contract awarded in September for removal of 6 million cubic yards of material, the dredging project will bring the 20-mile entrance channel to a depth of 54 feet.

Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co. LLC, which was awarded both contracts, will deposit the dredged material offshore.

The ports authority’s board also approved a $69.5 million contract this week to purchase six new ship-to-shore cranes — five at the Hugh K. Leatherman Sr. terminal under construction in North Charleston and one at the Wando Welch Terminal in Mount Pleasant.

The entrance channel dredging is the first step in a $529 million project to allow more and larger ships to use the port terminals without having to wait for high tide.

Lt. Col. Jeffrey Palazzini, Charleston district commander for the Army Corps of Engineers, said his team has been working to keep the project on schedule and on budget.

“The award of the second contract for the entrance channel keeps us in line with our schedule, which will be the most time-consuming phase of the project,” Palazzini said in a news release.

Funding for the Charleston Harbor Post-45 Deepening Project is expected to come from $330 million in federal funding and $199 million from the ports authority. The state set aside $300 million for the project in 2012 to be used for the port’s cost share. The federal government set aside $17.5 million in federal funding from the fiscal year 2017 work plan earlier this year.

The upper and lower harbors will be dredged to 52 feet. A timeline for dredging those sections has not been finalized. The entire harbor-deepening project is estimated to take between three and seven years, depending on funding, weather and dredge availability.

S.C. State Ports Authority President and CEO Jim Newsome credited the progress and speed of the harbor-deepening project to cooperation among local, state and federal officials and agencies.

“The investment in harbor deepening, as well as the Leatherman Terminal for additional container capacity and multiple other projects to improve our existing and inland infrastructure, will pay dividends to South Carolina’s economy for many years to come,” Newsome said in a statement.

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