The Army Corps of Engineers’ study that’s required before Charleston Harbor can be deepened won’t be scuttled by federal government-mandated furloughs, officials said Monday.
The news offers a sigh of relief for local maritime officials who were told last month that the so-called sequestration budget cutbacks could disrupt Army Corps’ operations as early as this week.
Last month, Army Corps of Engineers Lt. Col. Ed Chamberlayne told the State Ports Authority that there could be some delays in the study if federal budget cuts force agency workers to cut their workweeks to four days from five starting the week of April 22 under the sequestration.
Chamberlayne’s statement came days before the Department of Defense revised its budget-cutting plans.
Before the update, civilian workers would have had to take off one day each week starting this month.
The updated plan largely excludes civil works projects and moves furloughs to start in June, reducing the unpaid days by eight, from 22 to 14.
Corps spokeswoman Glenn Jeffries said Monday that the Department of Defense furlough largely exempts its civil works arm, including those assigned to the Charleston Harbor deepening project, dubbed Post-45.
“There is no impact to the Post-45 study,” Jeffries said.
Jeffries said roughly 50 of the 250 staffers at the Corps’ Charleston division will be affected by furloughs that would start in mid to late June. The affected workers are funded by Department of Defense appropriations and include project managers, engineers and those in construction oversight, Jeffries added. The sequestration is automatic cuts that took effect March 1.
The Army Corps’ feasibility report is one of the first steps in the lengthy process of dredging the Charleston shipping channel from 45 to 50 feet for larger vessels.
The draft of the report is set to be completed by the summer of 2014, and a final version is expected to be submitted in summer 2015, officials said.
The deepening is scheduled to be completed by 2020 and cost an estimated $300 million, which will be shared by the state and federal governments.
Reach Tyrone Richardson at 937-5550 and follow him on Twitter @tyrichardsonPC.