South Carolina legislators are fuming about a decision they say sets back a proposed port along the Savannah River in Jasper County.
Following a meeting of South Carolina’s Ports Authority’s Review and Oversight Commission Wednesday, several members criticized a plan by the US Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the Savannah River, then dump material on the site of the future Jasper Ocean Terminal.
The corps completed a 3,000-page environmental impact statement in November and South Carolina officials were given 60 days to review the document. However, it wasn’t until Dean Moss, the chairman of the Savannah Maritime Commission, briefed the commission Wednesday that legislators first learned about the dredging plan.
Beaufort Senator Tom Davis said he was taken aback by the decision to dump spoil for the next 60 years.
They have 10,000 acres down there that they can dump spoil on, and yet they select the 1,500 acres that the Jasper port site is going to be on to put their spoil. I don’t think that makes any sense.
In order to accommodate larger ships that will likely begin serving the East Coast by 2015, Georgia officials want to dredge the river so the ships can reach the port in Savannah. The Corps said the plan also helps the Jasper site, which is currently below flood stage and needs to be elevated before construction begins. Both states agreed to a joint ownership of the Jasper property under an agreement reached in 2007.
Davis said, however, the dredging decision shakes his faith the two states can work together.
Actions speak louder than words, and they can say they’re for the Jasper port. But when their actions suggest that they intend to use the Jasper port site for a spoil site until the year 2060, those are actions… They could have put in the environmental impact statement that they intend to seek the release of this easement, (or) that they intend to only dump spoil here for a few years.
Davis, himself a former member of the State Ports Authority Board, accused Georgia of violating a “covenant of good faith” with South Carolina, as well as an order from Congress. The federal Water Resource Development Act of 2007 directed the corps to “remove… the easements used by the Corps of Engineers for placement of dredged fill materials for the Savannah Harbor Federal navigation project.”
Davis said he thought South Carolina might have to take legal action.
Calls to the Georgia Ports Authority were not returned.