The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 on Wednesday, moving the 52-foot Charleston Harbor deepening project closer to the authorization needed to begin construction.
A conference committee will now work through the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill during the congressional recess, according to a news release from the S.C. State Ports Authority.
Port CEO Jim Newsome said in the release that the House approval makes “this critical legislation a priority before the lame-duck session.” If the project is approved, construction could begin next year.
The project will deepen the Charleston Harbor to 54 feet at the entrance channel and 52 feet in the harbor. The infrastructure project will yield the deepest harbor on the East Coast , according to Newsome.
The 52-foot depth means post-Panamax ships — larger ships that can transit the newly expanded Panama Canal — will be able to call on the Port of Charleston any time of day without tidal restrictions. The harbor is already wide enough to handle two ships simultaneously.
The post-Panamax ships are already calling on the Port of Charleston, Newsome said.