It looks as if finding federal money to keep the deepening of Charleston’s Harbor on track won’t be as difficult this year.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Thursday the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved $3.5 million to continue the study for deepening the harbor — the largest federal contribution to date.

“Deepening Charleston Harbor is the No. 1 issue for South Carolina’s economy,” Graham said. “The Port of Charleston is our economic gateway to the world and that’s why I have long believed that when it comes to deepening Charleston Harbor, failure is simply not an option.”

Last year, the state’s congressional delegation had to scramble to secure funds to keep the study on track because of Republican members’ growing opposition to earmarks.

This time, the job was easier because President Barack Obama’s proposed budget for 2013 called for another $3.5 million.

Currently, the harbor is 45 feet deep, and some larger ships cannot enter or leave during low tide. The study will help pinpoint what’s needed to deepen it to 50 feet.

This year, state lawmakers also approved $180 million toward deepening the Charleston harbor, the total state match required. The total project is expected to cost about $300 million.

Graham said the Fiscal Year 2013 Energy and Water Appropriations Act also contains $20.4 million for continued operation and maintenance of Charleston’s navigable waterways; a provision making Georgetown’s port eligible for some of $30 million in a federal account for small harbors; and $400,000 to study further renourishment on Folly Beach.

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.