ATLANTA -- Congress’ end to the practice of earmarking makes it harder to secure funding for deepening the Savannah River’s shipping channel, Sen. Saxby Chambliss said Monday.
The Georgia Republican told members of the Atlanta Press Club that he is also working to increase the amount authorized for the project originally in a 1993 water act from $450 million to $650 million so that inflation is included.
For years, every project of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers passed Congress as an earmark, a process in which members of Congress simply wrote in amounts they wanted saved in spending bills for their state or district. When those earmarks became a major issue in the 2008 presidential campaign because there were never individual votes on those appropriations, Congress halted the practice.
“We are now in a post-earmark world, so that means we can’t go in and request it,” he said.
Instead, the president or the Corps must request it. President Barack Obama has requested $2.8 million.
“That’s kind of kept the door open for us,” Chambliss said.
Also, the Corps and the Georgia Ports Authority must formalize an agreement, that he predicted would take until the first of the year to complete.
“We are leaning on the Corps every day to make sure that they make the right request and that we have the right kind of inroads to the White House to continue to emphasize the White House’s involvement in putting money forward,” he said.
Further up the river, Chambliss said he also favors the federal taxpayers paying for refurbishment of the Augusta Canal.
“The situation in Augusta from a waterway standpoint is important,” he said. “It’s important to the economy of Augusta. They have built a whole cottage industry around that, and we need to make sure that the federal government is participating in the right kinds of infrastructure projects. We think that’s one.
“From a cost-benefit standpoint, it will be a huge benefit not only to Augusta and Richmond County but the economy of that whole area.”