As the $706 million Savannah Harbor Expansion Project begins, UGA and Georgia Sea Grant are poised to help coastal residents adapt to changes that are expected to bring additional jobs and prosperity to their communities.
“Most of the regional attention to the Savannah Harbor deepening has focused on the ecological effects to the river and adjacent wetland ecosystems,” said Charles Hopkinson, Georgia Sea Grant director. “We want to shift the focus to local communities so that they are prepared to handle the secondary impacts that are likely to accompany the port expansion, such as new transportation and parking needs or the school and housing needs of an expanded workforce.”
As the country’s fourth busiest container port and creator of $18.5 billion annually in personal income from port-related jobs, much is riding on the success of Savannah’s port expansion. Plans include dredging 32 miles of the harbor’s navigation channel to allow the port to accommodate supersized freighters from Asia and the Pacific coast of Latin America that will come to the East Coast through the newly expanded Panama Canal, due to be completed in 2015.
During the construction phase of the project, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that 3,700 one-year jobs will be created within Georgia and South Carolina. Stephen Ramos, an assistant professor in the College of Environment and Design, will investigate the best ways for communities to accommodate the temporary workforce and study whether it could translate into long-term job creation. He also will look at whether local communities need to invest in infrastructure improvements.