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Corps to make repairs to harbor
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will turn its attention to removing storm damage from the Port of Brunswick's outer harbor after finishing maintenance dredging of the inner harbor this week.

The outer harbor has been in need of repairs after two spring tropical storms dumped silt and sand into the deep channel that allows large commercial ships to enter the port, according to Billy Birdwell, spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District.

Birdwell said the corps expects to receive $5.9 million for maintenance dredging, $4 million of which will be used to remove the silt dumped in the harbor by the spring storms.

He said the dredging could begin as early as January.

The Brunswick Bar Pilots Association, the group representing the harbor pilots who guide the ships through the channel from the Atlantic Ocean, sent a letter to legislators in August asking for action in clearing the more than 1.3 million cubic yards of silt dumped by the storms on top of the 2.2 million cubic yards already there due to a lack of maintenance.

The accumulation has forced the pilots to delay some ships from entering the channel while waiting for the tide to rise, the letter said.

But money is tight and restoring the entire channel to its approved 36-foot depth could cost more than $7 million by some estimates, said U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-1.

That money is harder to come by these days since congressional earmarks are no longer a possibility, Kingston said.

Now, instead of Congress dictating where the money will be spent, the corps decides. With ports, dams and waterways around the country being managed by the corps, there is not always enough to go around, Kingston said.

"You have to put your name in the hat and really fight for it," he said.

Which is what Kingston said he is doing by sponsoring the Restoring America's Maritime Promise Act, which seeks to force the federal harbor maintenance trust fund to be spent on harbor maintenance instead of going into the general fund. More than $1.3 billion is produced annually for the fund by port taxes.

In Brunswick, Kingston said around $8 million is produced each year, enough to pay for maintenance in the harbor. Keeping the money produced here would be enough to maintain the channel depth, he said.



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