ATLANTA – Georgia’s senior senator said Tuesday that he will keep pushing for federal support of projects important to the state in 2016.
On the eve of a new session of Congress, Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., listed a number of initiatives that he vowed to watch closely. Topping the list is continued funding for deepening of the Savannah River shipping channel in order to accommodate the bigger freighters that will use the expanded Panama Canal soon. A spending bill Congress passed last month included $21 million to keep the dredging going another year but just a fraction of what state officials want from Washington.
Having the port money in this year’s budget improves its chances for future funding, he said during an interview with Morris News Service, but doesn’t guarantee it.
“Seeing to it that the Port of Savannah is funded and done is a four-more-year project,” he said. “We’ve got to stay on top of it to make sure we don’t lose any ground politically or funding-wise…. You always have to compete for federal funding because there’s always somebody who’s after your money.”
Some assurance comes from agreement between the senators from Georgia and South Carolina last year to jointly support Savannah’s deepening now and Charleston’s deepening in the coming years when that project is ready to begin.
Another project on the coast is the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Brunswick, which just won reauthorization in last month’s spending bill. However, Isakson was pessimistic about efforts to expand it in order to house the training of security guards for the Department of State. Department officials argue a new facility should be built for them in Virginia.
“I know there is a lot of politics favoring Virginia at the State Department, and that’s really their call,” he said.
FLETC has the capability to take on added training roles and do so more economically than the construction of a totally new facility, he said.
Isakson also expects there will be considerable federal involvement in a proposal to build a commercial space port in Camden County near the Florida line.
While the federal government won’t participate in the funding, it will have a say on site selection. Washington will oversee the environmental concerns and will have particular interest from a national-security standpoint because of the proximity to Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base since parts of SpaceX rockets are expected to return to earth as well as being launched at the facility.
Isakson toured the proposed site two years ago but hasn’t become more involved yet.
It will make a huge economic payback for the local investment, he said.
“They’ve got to have the support of the United States from a standpoint of logistics, security and everything else,” he said.
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