By John Celock, State Politics Reporter, Patch/Huffington Post
WASHINGTON — Gov. Nikki Haley kept the focus on ports during a meeting with President Obama and fellow governors at the White House on Monday morning.
Haley, in town for the annual National Governors Association conference, said at a press conference Monday afternoon that she used the White House meeting to urge the president to speed up the process for deepening the nation’s ports. Haley’s call comes as ports around the East Coast try to deepen following the upcoming widening of the Panama Canal.
"If we don’t get our ports deep enough, we will waste that opportunity," she said.
Haley indicated she would like to see the federal government allocate more funding for port deepening efforts.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference sponsored by the Republican Governors Association, Haley said that she was not specifically speaking about the Port of Charleston, but about all of the ports. She said among her comments to Obama and Vice President Joe Biden was for the nation’s maritime policies to be upgraded, along with speeding up the timeline for the Army Corps of Engineers to address port deepening requests from state governments.
Haley’s remarks come the same day that she vetoed a bill from the state legislature regarding the Georgia Ports Authority and the Savannah River. The legislature had sought to overturn her administration’s approval of permits to deepen the river, which could lead to the deepening of Georgia’s Port of Savannah faster than South Carolina’s Port of Charleston. Haley explained that her veto was due to what she saw as legislative meddling in executive branch actions.
Funding for required studies of the harbor deepening were announced earlier this month. First, the U.S. Army Corps of engineers announced Feb. 8 that it had set aside $2.5 million for studies on deepening the harbor.
The White House released the president's budget on Feb. 13, which included an additional $3.5 million for the Charleston Harbor project. That money isn't assured since the Congress will ultimately decide budget priorities.
And, last week, the state House Ways and Means Committee agreed to set aside $180 million toward the actually cost once studies are complete. The total project is expected to cost $300 million.