Editorial

11/30/2012

Fees collected at ports should go to upkeep

U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-1, is trying to convince other members of Congress to do what's necessary to make sure customs fees collected in the nation's ports go toward their upkeep. It's perfect sense to rational people, to dedicate revenue generated by ports to their proper maintenance.

That includes the shipping channel that serves the Port of Brunswick, which right now has a few issues. Silt stirred up by tropical storms and northeast winds this year is robbing the underwater path to terminals here of needed depth. In some areas it is less than the 36 feet authorized by the federal government.

That can be an obstacle, a major one, to large ships calling on the port. Time is money to them, and if they have to base their arrival and departure on the rise and fall of tides, they might decide to take their business elsewhere.

That's always a risk when offering access to port facilities that is less than what's advertised. It's why Rep. Kingston would like for harbor fees to be reinvested in ports.

The Port of Brunswick could use that money about now. The Army Corps of Engineers estimates it will cost $8 million to restore the depth along the channel to 36 feet. Unfortunately, it has only $5 million for the project.

The shortfall has Rep. Kingston and state Rep. Alex Atwood, R-St. Simons Island, thinking that the state might be able to offer some relief, if only temporarily.

This follows a recent announcement by Gov. Nathan Deal that he will ask the state General Assembly to OK $50 million in state funding for the deepening of the Savannah Port.

The hope is that the federal government is going to pick up the lion's share of the $650 million it will cost to add four feet of depth to Savannah's 42-foot deep channel.

The way Rep. Atwood sees it, Brunswick is the state's only other deepwater port. Like Savannah, it, too, is so contributing to Georgia's economy, especially now since it is the third largest auto port in the nation. An unobstructed channel is vital to the port's present and future and to the oodles of jobs it helps to sustain.

With that in mind, Rep. Kingston and Rep. Atwood feel the state legislature might want to do what it can to protect its investment and appropriate the funding needed to maintain the channel at 36 feet.

It shouldn't hurt to ask, anyway. This is not a Brunswick port. It is a state port.