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U.S. President Barack Obama’s FY 2012 budget neglected to include funding for a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study that would assess the environmental impact of deepening the Port of Charleston.

That’s obviously additional bad news for a port that has seen its competitive position plummet over the last eight years due to its archaic management model.

A source close to the SPA tells FITS that the agency will continue to make the case for this study – one of several required by the government prior to deepening – “on its merits.”

Funding for this feasibility study has become a point of contention in the debate over earmark spending in Washington, D.C. It has also become a rallying cry against U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, who has encountered newfound success in his war against pork barrel spending.

Specifically, DeMint’s opponents are trying to saddle him with the blame for the study not being funded – saying that his crusade against earmarks is what is keeping the deepening of Charleston harbor (which should have been done years ago) from moving forward.

That’s ridiculous. The federal government is running an unprecedented $1.6 trillion deficit this year. Meanwhile the state of South Carolina is operating on a record $20.8 billion budget.

And you’re telling us that these clowns can’t find $400,000 to pay for this?

That’s pretty astonishing when you consider the lip service being paid to the importance of our port system …

Also the last time we checked this is the second year in a row that Obama has refused to fund the project … yet you don’t hear earmark proponents criticizing him.

Currently, Charleston harbor has a depth of 47 feet in its entrance channel and 45 feet through the remainder of the shipping lanes. Port officials want to increase these depths to 50 feet, and then extend the new maximum depth by two miles to “reach the needed ocean contours for length of channel.”

This $400,000 is part of a $3.4 million study that would assess the environmental impact of deepening the harbor. The actual deepening itself would cost $300 million.

Are any of those expenses core functions of government?

We’re not necessarily sold on that notion – although we would humbly submit that deepening Charleston harbor is a far better use of tax dollars than spending billions of dollars to send a bunch of “green jobs” overseas.

We can also say that failing to entertain public-private partnerships in the management of our port infrastructure – an ongoing problem for our state – contributes mightily to our problem. If our state was leveraging private investment in its port system, coming up with $3.4 million (particularly in anticipation of federal reimbursement) would be no big deal.

It’s worth noting that Charleston wasn’t the only port that got the shaft from Obama. The Port of Savannah, which sought $105 million to begin deepening its harbor, also got screwed.

Guess both states now have a common enemy to fight in addition to their recent border war against each other …

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