SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Governor Nathan Deal says a trip to Washington has left him hopeful that Georgia can still secure federal funding this year to start deepening the Port of Savannah’s shipping channel in 2012.

The governor said Wednesday after meeting with the state’s congressional delegation that the Savannah harbor project could probably get by with just $70 million in this federal budget cycle — far less than the $105 million port officials initially wanted.

Savannah is competing with other East Coast ports to deepen its river channel in anticipation of supersized cargo ships coming via an expanded Panama Canal in a few years.

Deal said a ban in Congress on so-called “earmark” spending has made it tougher to get port funding, but there might be ways around that obstacle.

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