Even if construction begins in a little more than a year, work to deepen the Port of Savannah's shipping channel will likely extend into 2016, the Army Corps of Engineers top official on the project said Wednesday.
That means dredging the Savannah River six feet to a depth of 48 feet wouldn't be finished until roughly two years after giant cargo ships are expected to begin using an expanded Panama Canal in 2014.
Georgia ports officials have warned that if the Savannah project lags too far behind the Panama Canal project, the larger container ships could shift to competing U.S. ports.
Curtis Foltz, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority, has been saying since September that he hoped the Savannah project would be finished before the end of 2015. He said Wednesday the Corps' anticipated end date isn't too troubling as long as work gets under way the time the Panama expansion is complete.
"Anything after the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015 is concerning to us," Foltz said. "But the most important thing for our customers in commerce is that they know there is an end date and that end date is in sight."