ATLANTA — Sen. Johnny Isakson said Tuesday he has had to keep nudging administration officials to complete the paperwork needed to begin deepening the Savannah River’s shipping channel.
“We’d had a little blip; negotiations had slowed down a little bit,” he said. “We got those sped up.”
For years, state officials were eagerly anticipating the record of decision from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the document showing the agency supports the project since the U.S. Constitution gives authority over navigable waters to the federal government. It took more than 16 years and millions of dollars in environmental studies, but clearing it seemed to be the final hurdle. Then the Environmental Protection Agency, the Fish & Wildlife Service and similar federal agencies also signed off.
To speed things along, the state even put up its share of the project costs in advance, something the Corps hasn’t seen before. But the state can’t begin using its own money until the Corps signs a project-partnership agreement.
While at Fort Gordon on Aug. 19, Isakson met with a three-star general in the Corps to inquire about the snag in the $706 million project. Isakson said the White House Office of Management and Budget was the hold up, not the Corps.
“I have become an expert at prodding OMB,” he quipped.
That’s because, the senator – along with most of the Georgia congressional delegation, the governor and several local politicians – have been pushing OMB to include the federal share of the project in the president’s next budget. Until then, the state funds can keep the project moving forward once the project-partnership agreement is signed.
Isakson predicted that would happen sometime this fall.
“It worked within 24 hours,” he said of his recent prompting. “ … I think part of the job of a good senator or representative is to make sure that the proper authorities are aware if something’s supposed to happen. ”