Gov. Nikki Haley called on lawmakers Monday to start saving money for a future joint Georgia-South Carolina port terminal along the Savannah River.
Haley made the comments after meeting with port representatives from both states to get an update on the 1,500-acre Jasper Ocean Terminal planned on South Carolina’s side of the river. She hoped legislators could find some seed money in the current budget, noting a more than $1 billion surplus this year.
“You’re going to continue to hear me ask the Senate and the House, ‘Don’t waste it,'” the governor told reporters following the meeting at Jasper County’s government building in Ridgeland. “These years don’t come by often.”
The project is currently early in its permitting stage. Consultant projects place a $2 billion price tag on its initial construction, with a final $4.5 billion cost by the time all four phases are complete. Jasper would be the largest terminal ever built in the United States if all four phases occur.
State Ports Authority CEO Jim Newsome said the new site is needed because the existing ports in Charleston and Savannah will start to reach capacity within the next 15 years. “They’ve been the two fastest-growing ports in the United States since 2010,” he told reporters. “We’re going to need new capacity.”
The project’s current timeline would start construction in 2022 if all the correct environmental permits are in place. That would set an 2025 opening date, which is when Ports Authority officials say is around the same time Charleston and Savannah would start running out of space for further cargo expansion. The governor admitted that would be a “uphill, steep climb” to hit that target, however.
The future port is overseen by a two-state committee. Both states also contributed money to purchase the site halfway along the Savannah River between the Garden City Terminal in Savannah and the Atlantic Ocean.
A previous study predicted more than 900 jobs will be created directly and indirectly for the construction of the port alone.