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Gov. Kemp, Congress members plug proposed study for port improvements
Officials also want to protect the North Atlantic right whale, shipping industry, jobs
kemp at GA PORT
Governor Brian Kemp was at the Port of Savannah on March 25 to urge Congress to pass the Water Resources Development bill which includes funding for a study to deepen and widen the Port of Savannah. (Photo by Barbara Augsdorfer/Effingham Herald.)

Gov. Brian Kemp was on hand Monday afternoon, March 25, at the port of Savannah, along with Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA), Rep. Mike Collins (R-GA), and Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO), chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure committee in the US House of Representatives.

The government officials agree the port of Savannah needs to keep growing to keep up with the increasing number and weight of shipping containers coming in and leaving the port.

A spokesperson for Georgia Ports said that in the past, containers that were 20 feet in length have been replaced by containers that are 40 feet in length, and weighing twice as much. A deeper and wider waterway would allow the port to handle more ships and the heavier loads.

Gov. Kemp urged investment in the Port of Savannah in a study that is part of a bill now in the Transportation and Infrastructure committee in the House.

“Government needs to move at the speed of our economy,” Gov. Kemp said.

“Sam gets it. He understands just how important this port is. And these ports -- Brunswick and Savannah -- are to our economy, but not only here in the first district, but throughout the southeastern United States. The impact that these ports have reaches all the way up into the Ohio Valley,” Rep. Carter said. “Constant investment is the key.”

“The Transportation and Infrastructure committee (is an) authorizing committee. We authorize the programs that we put together. We authorize the studies and then they’re funded through appropriations,” said Rep. Graves. “And both Buddy and Mike worked very hard to make sure that the programs are in place to move infrastructure.”

Graves went on to explain the bill authorizing the study to deepen and widen the port is part of the Water Resources Development bill, which authorizes all the water infrastructure bills in the country. Graves added the bill should be on the floor of Congress this summer.

“It should be a very good bipartisan bill,” Graves said.

In regard to a related issue, Gov. Kemp added the deepening and widening of the port should also consider protecting the North Atlantic Right Whale. He asked for support to defeat a proposed rule from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that would limit vessels larger than 35 feet to ten knots per hour within 100 miles of the port. (Ten knots is equivalent to about 11.5 mph.)

“We also need your help to pass legislation which protects the North Atlantic right whale, but does so without creating an extremely dangerous and inefficient operating environment for our mariners,” Gov. Kemp said.

NOAA has proposed the “ten knot” rule that would force ships to not exceed 10 knots in areas where the right whale has been spotted to potentially reduce whale injuries and fatalities from boat strikes.

Rep. Collins concurred, saying, “There are pilots out there, boarding these vessels that (rule is) going to put their lives in danger. It’s going to destroy an industry that provides $84 billion to our economy. Three hundred forty thousand jobs are at stake with this (rule).

“I’ve got it in the base text in the appropriations bill for this year to kill that rule,” Collins added.

Collins said the industry has come up with a way to fix the problem.

“It’s very easily fixable. But as usual, our federal government their infinite wisdom, comes up with the worst way to do things,” Collins said.

mike collins
Rep. Mike Collins said he will work with his colleagues to kill the NOAA “ten knot” rule, that proponents say is necessary to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales. Collins said the industry has come up with a different way to fix the problem that doesn’t adversely affect the shipping industry. (Photo/Barbara Augsdorfer/Effingham Herald).
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