Making sure Charleston Harbor is deepened to accommodate larger vessels is a high priority for the newly sworn-in U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford.

That was the former governor’s message following a meeting this morning with the State Ports Authority officials, just days after being sworn into the vacant 1st Congressional District seat.

The hour-long meeting, which was closed to media, was an informational session about the SPA’s operations, including the proposed deepening of Charleston’s shipping channel to 50 feet from 45 for larger vessels, Sanford said.

“We have a port, and it’s an incredible national resource and we have to make sure it’s maintained, and in this case, deepened,” he said.

The fate of dredging Charleston Harbor is in the hands of the Army Corps of Engineers, which is studying the feasibility of such as project. The federal agency is scheduled to make its recommendation to Congress in 2015.

Several ports along the East and Gulf coasts are jockeying for federal dollars to deepen their shipping channels to accommodate larger ships that will be able to traverse the expanding Panama Canal within about two years.

Sanford’s meeting comes just days after the U.S. Senate approved extending the federal government’s main water resources law, which calls for investing in projects such as port improvements and flood protection. The bill is now making its way through the House.

Reach Tyrone Richardson at 937-5550 and follow him on Twitter @tyrichardsonPC.