The Charleston Harbor Post 45 Deepening Project looks to address transportation inefficiencies by deepening and widening Charleston Harbor to allow for growth in the shipping industry with the influx of Post-Panamax ships calling on port in the Lowcountry.
The Charleston District has been working with the project’s non-federal sponsor, the South Carolina Ports Authority, since 2010 to complete studies and move the project toward a 52 foot deep federal channel. The project is one of the first seven that President Obama’s Administration expedited under its “We Can't Wait” initiative for critical infrastructure projects.
Post 45 is currently in the Construction Phase of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Civil Works Process. During this phase, the Charleston District will focus on the solicitation, award, and construction management of dredging and upland placement site construction contracts to complete the implementation for the authorized modifications to the federal channel for Charleston Harbor. The construction will start in the Charleston Harbor Entrance Channel and the entire project will take 40-76 months depending on full-funding, dredge availability, weather, and a variety of other factors. While the Entrance Channel dredging is being initiated, the District is simultaneously finalizing the design of the remaining channel reaches in the Lower and Upper Harbor areas. Throughout the construction phase the District will continue to work with stakeholder agencies while implementing the mitigation and monitoring requirements of the project. The estimated cost-share for the construction portion of the project will be $330 million for the federal government and $199 million for the SCPA, making the total project cost approximately $529 million.
Prior to the Construction Phase, the Charleston District completed the Reconnaissance Phase in 2010, which demonstrated that a large percentage of vessels calling on Charleston Harbor were tide-restricted, and the Feasibility Phase, which determined that deepening Charleston Harbor was both economically beneficial and environmentally acceptable to the nation. In 2015, the Final Integrated Feasibility Report and Environmental Impact Statement concluded that the recommended plan for the Charleston Harbor federal channel would be to deepen it to 52 feet, as well as widening areas for turning basins. In December 2015, the District and the SCPA executed the design agreement for the project to enter the Pre-construction Engineering and Design (PED) Phase. During this phase the District completed major remaining analyses and developed the first sets of plans and specifications for construction of the entrance channel deepening. After the Assistant Secretary for the Army for Civil Works signed the Record of Decision in January 2016, the project was passed to Congress for consideration for authorization. The project was authorized for construction in December 2016, with the passage of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act of 2016. The Project Partnership Agreement for the Construction Phase of the project was executed on July 19, 2017 and the first construction contract for a portion of the Entrance Channel deepening was awarded on September 7, 2017.
Post 45 is the first study to be completed in the Corps entirely under their new SMART Planning process, as part of the Corps' Planning Modernization effort. This enabled the Charleston District to complete the Feasibility Phase in four years for approximately $11 million after an original estimate of seven years and $20 million. The Charleston District worked in close collaboration with state and federal partner agencies to complete the required studies and associated environmental reviews and permits. This has led Post 45 to become a model for future Civil Works projects around the Corps.
The Corps has maintained Charleston Harbor for more than 140 years and has dredged it every year during that time to ensure the channel is at the required federal project depth, spending approximately $10-15 million and removing 2-3 million cubic yards of maintenance material from the harbor floor each year. Construction to deepen the harbor to the now federally authorized 45 foot depth began in 1999 and was completed in 2004. Charleston Harbor has strategic national importance for military readiness, supporting Joint Base Charleston, and regionally the harbor deepening is of economic importance, allowing Post-Panamax vessels to call upon the harbor.