Clyburn, Graham: Progress made on SC port project

COLUMBIA --- U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn said he hopes to find funding within a few weeks to finish a study of deepening Charleston's port, a move officials say is necessary so the harbor can handle the next generation of cargo ships.

Clyburn's office said in a news release Saturday the congressman has spoken with the Obama administration about getting federal matching funds to complete a technical step in the years-long process of deepening Charleston Harbor to 50 feet.

"The indications that I have received from the vice president's office are very positive, and I look forward to having the funding for the Charleston Port study resolved in the coming weeks," Clyburn said in the news release.

This year's funding was tied up in part by a fight over earmarks. In the past, the project could have been easily moved forward with a single lawmaker securing the funding.

But the new crop of tea party-supported Republicans helped push through a ban on earmarks when the GOP took over the House this year.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said Saturday the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is seeking approval to use money allocated last year to advance the Charleston project. That request needs approval from the Office of Management and Budget.

He said it would be up to three weeks before anything is officially announced.

Graham, who has threatened to hold up Senate business if the Charleston project is not funded, said he hopes to change the way the Army Corps of Engineers funds dredging and deepening projects so the Corps can allocate money based on a merit system.

The overall cost of deepening the port is expected to be $300 million.

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