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Six feet makes big difference in U.S. ag exports

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• If the Savannah Harbor gets another six feet deeper, it can continue being a top U.S. port for ag exports. If it doesn't, it won't be.

The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, neatly called SHEP, looks to cost about $650 million, a mix of state, private and federal money mingling together.

Another way to put it, I guess, is for every foot deeper you want to dig the Savannah River to the Savannah Harbor, particularly its well-used Garden City terminal, you need to be willing to spend $100 million and some change per foot. That is real money.

The project is “shovel ready,” said Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal. But the total funds are not. They’re still locked for the most part in Washington. Hope was that the money would come through, though, be year’s end.

Is it worth it? Sure.

According to Deal, who quoted some Army Corps of Engineers numbers, every dollar spent on the Savannah Harbor expansion will return $5.50 in economic impact, or what seems the right way to stimulate an economy.

Even if you factor in political math spin, that still seems like a good return on investment. And, again, I’m biased but I like money invested in the South.

I looked over the Savannah canal and watched loaded cargo ships pass by on their way to the world. It still amazes a simple redneck like me that man can build and handle such things, especially in tight places like the Savannah Canal, which passes in front of buildings that once stored cotton and other Georgia commodities two centuries ago.

I could have, with a good wind and a strong arm, hit the ships with a baseball from where I stood. I couldn’t imagine a larger ship trying to get through that canal. I couldn’t imagine a ship larger.

I wondered what was loaded on those ships. I could guess but I’d never be sure. Then I realized I could be sure. It was money, just in its various commodity or product forms.

Ships loaded with a tradition of global cooperation brought together by trade: old trade agreements, reacquainted ones and new ones likely mixed in the stacks. Nothing really ground breaking.

It was just the right now building on things learned from the past. It was the future.

brad.haire@penton.com

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