July 2, 2015

Funding set aside to start next phase of Charleston harbor deepening

File photo

File photo

A project to deepen the Charleston Harbor’s shipping channel to handle new larger ships has gotten funding to begin design work, the Army Corps of Engineers announced Wednesday.

It is the latest step in the decade-long effort to make Charleston the deepest harbor on the East Coast.

The Corps’ Charleston Post 45 announced $1.3 million in additional federal funding would allow pre-construction engineering and design to begin. The announcement follows last week’s US Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works Review Board approval of the project. The Corps of Engineers expects to sign the report in September and then present it to Congress, which will approve the project’s funding at a later date.

South Carolina ports officials say the dredging is necessary to handle larger “Post-Panamax” ships that are beginning to arrive along the East Coast. The influx of new ships is expected once work to deepen the Panama Canal finishes next April.

“The allocation of federal funding for the PED phase of our deepening project is tremendous,” SC Ports Authority Board Chairman Bill Stern said in a statement. “We are grateful to the leadership of state and federal elected officials and the Obama Administration for their united support of Charleston’s harbor deepening. The merit of our project and the significant benefits it will deliver for our state and nation are signified by the efforts of elected officials on all levels to ensure it progresses without delay.”

The money announced Wednesday is roughly a quarter of the estimated $4.5 million total costs for design work. A cost-share agreement divides those costs equally between federal and state government. South Carolina’s legislature has already set aside enough funds to cover the entire cost should Congress not act.

The Corps of Engineers began a four-year feasibility study for the harbor deepening in 2011. The project was one of the first to advance through a new “accelerated planning process” that tried to reduce the study from the usual 5-8 years.

SC State University trustees approve major cuts to reach balanced budget

South Carolina State University’s new board of trustees approved $19.1 million in cuts Tuesday, including dozens of layoffs and the elimination of some programs, but believe they are now close to eliminating the school’s massive budget deficit.

“We now have a balanced budget for South Carolina State University,” board chairman Charles Way announced to applause after Tuesday’s meeting.

A finished budget for South Carolina’s only public historically-black university was required before July 1, when the state’s new fiscal year begins. The unanimous vote was the first major step for the new smaller board. Legislators replaced all previous trustees in June amid frustrations that they were not doing enough to

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State senator who supports Confederate flag says he doesn’t plan filibuster

State Sen. Lee Bright (Image: SCETV)

State Sen. Lee Bright (Image: SCETV)

As the American Civil War neared an end in early 1865, Confederate soldiers fought defensive actions against General Sherman’s Union troops in South Carolina. The outnumbered Confederates by that time knew they would be on the losing side when the war was over, but hoped to delay the ending as long as possible.

The handful of state lawmakers who are defending the Confederate battle flag at South Carolina’s Statehouse 150 years later seemingly find themselves in similar position. Recent work by the Charleston Post & Courier found more than two-thirds of state legislators have publicly indicated they would vote to remove the flag when lawmakers return to special session next week. Gov. Nikki Haley has called for the flag’s removal, as have almost all of South Carolina college presidents, chambers of commerce, and even the mayors of its largest cities Columbia and Charleston.

Seemingly resigned to defeat, flag supporters like State Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, say they have no plans to block the vote through filibuster.

“We’re in special session. So if I went up there for three, four days… the net result would be the same,” Bright told South Carolina Radio Network. “If I could stall it for weeks, I believe we could change things. But only being able to stall it for a day or so, I don’t anticipate it changing.”

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Groups urge peaceful demonstrations in debate over Confederate battle flag in South Carolina

Various groups urged calm on both sides of the Confederate battle flag issue, as the Legislature returns to next week to open debate on removing

 Groups urge peaceful demonstrations in debate over Confederate battle flag.  South Carolina Radio Network photo.

Groups urge peaceful demonstrations in debate over Confederate battle flag.
South Carolina Radio Network photo.

it from the State House grounds.

“We are asking all good will people to restrain themselves from the violence,” Tina Reddy, spokeswoman for the state chapter of the National Action Network, said Wednesday in front of the flag.

That appeal came after a fight broke out Monday evening involving  both sides, which resulted in the arrest of a Lexington County man for disorderly conduct.

Reddy’s group also called on outside groups to stay out of the state while the decision is being debated. Her comments come weeks before a North Carolina-based Ku Klux Klan group travels to Columbia for a rally at the State House on Saturday July 18th.

“We are asking all hate groups like the KKK and the Black Panthers to leave our state,” she said. “You are not welcome here.”

Her organization also urged law enforcement across the state to keep a close eye on black churches in rural areas because of recent fires, many of which are still under investigation.

Bruce Trezevant, head of Project Unity, a group that promotes harmony, said the incidents Monday are disrespectful to the nine who were killed in the Charleston church shooting. “Those actions of violence are a dishonor to those who passed away.”

Darwin Miller, head of the state chapter of the National Campaign for Tolerance, is urging both sides to stay not to be violent. “We are urging you to be calm and peaceful.”



Investigators: Too early to determine cause of Greeleyville AME church fire

Image: Carter Jones/SC Firefighters Association

Image: Carter Jones/SC Firefighters Association

The cause of a fire that destroyed a predominantly-black Greeleyville church Tuesday night has not been determined. It’s the second black church to burn in rural South Carolina — and seventh in the South — in little more than a week.

Federal investigators are not ruling out arson at Mt. Zion AME Church, but say it’s too early to know a cause at this time. Greeleyville is a small Williamsburg County town of roughly 375 people located about 50 miles south of Florence and 85 miles west of Myrtle Beach.

“What I can tell you is we have everyone here humanly possible to investigate it and we’re going to let the facts determine it,” ATF Assistant Special Agent in Charge Craig Chilcott said during a Wednesday press conference. “It really is premature to make a cause of origin determination. We’ve got folks still inside the church digging it out. I’ve seen these investigations take weeks.”

Greeleyville Mayor Jessie Parker said the same church was burned by the KKK 20 years ago. “To ride up there last night and just see the church in flames again, it gives you an ill feeling,” he said. Then-President Bill Clinton visited the church in 1996.

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