SAVANNAH — President Donald Trump has asked Congress for an additional $130 million to continue deepening the shipping channel to Savannah's busy seaport.
Trump's budget request for fiscal 2020 would be the federal government's largest annual expenditure yet on the $976 million Savannah harbor expansion. The figure was contained in the Army Corps of Engineers' detailed civil works budget Tuesday, the day after the White House released Trump's broader $4.7 trillion proposed budget.
"That is wonderful, wonderful news," said Rep. Buddy Carter, the Georgia Republican whose district includes Savannah. "We're halfway through, but that does us no good. We need to be completely through before we see the benefits. I think the administration has finally caught on to that."
Dredging along 40 miles (64 kilometers) of the Savannah River between the port and the Atlantic Ocean began more than three years ago and reached the halfway mark last year. The Georgia Ports Authority and the state's congressional delegation have stressed they need roughly $100 million each year to complete the project without delays.
The federal government contributed $101 million for the 2019 fiscal year that began Oct. 1 and chipped in $85 million the previous year. Federal funding in prior years failed to come close, and the Army Corps relied on roughly $300 million from Georgia taxpayers to keep the project on schedule.
Savannah and other East Coast ports are racing to deepen their harbors to make room for larger cargo ships already arriving through an expanded Panama Canal. Savannah is the fourth-busiest U.S. port for retail goods and other cargo shipped in large metal containers.
Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia noted in a statement he's been fighting to deepen the Savannah harbor for his entire two decades in Congress.
"With this announcement, the finish line is finally in sight," Isakson said.
Trump's $130 million budget request would put the harbor expansion on target for completion in 2022, GOP Sen. David Perdue of Georgia said in a news release.
How much money the Savannah project actually gets in fiscal 2020 remains to be seen. Trump's budget proposes record spending as well as deep cuts to domestic programs, and faces approval by a Congress with one chamber now controlled by Democrats.
Carter said in a phone interview that he's optimistic.
"When Congress starts looking at this," he said, "I think they'll see this is one of the top priorities of the administration."