The South Carolina Ports Authority has voted to suspend funding for the proposed Jasper Ocean Terminal.
The agency’s board of directors voted 7-2 to stop funding the future port after they determined it could not be built under the current conditions.
The vote comes after Georgia officials received the go-ahead to dredge the Savannah River, including getting a 50-year federal easement that would use the site of the proposed Jasper terminal (which is owned by both states) as a place to dump the dredge spoil.
The South Carolina officials also accused their Georgia counterparts of not being sincere in helping build the Jasper port, which would be located on the river roughly halfway between the Atlantic Ocean and Savannah’s Garden City terminal.
“We shouldn’t put in any money,” the board’s chairman Bill Sterns said after the meeting, “We have an obligation to the taxpayers of the state of South Carolina… to be good stewards of public money. This makes no business sense at all unless Georgia is fully committed.”
Georgia officials say they want to deepen the Savannah River up to the city of Savannah’s Garden City port to make room for larger container ships that will start arriving on the East Coast after the Panama Canal is widened in 2014. However, Jasper supporters say the entire river cannot be deepened to the 50 feet that is the minimum standard that Post-Panamax ships require.
The South Carolina officials want an alternative proposal to deepen the Savannah down to 50 feet from the Atlantic to the Jasper site. A feasibility study by the Army Corps of Engineers recommends 48 feet.
So far, each state has put roughly $6 million into the site to purchase the land and operate a small joint office there. Stern signaled that South Carolina could pull out of the agreement with Georgia and build the Jasper terminal itself.
“We’re fully committed to building the Jasper port, but you got to have a willing partner on the other side,” Stern said, “Fortunately or unfortunately, we are in a 50-50 partnership with the Georgia Ports Authority. And either they start showing us signs that they’re fully committed to building a Jasper port, or… this will come to a standstill.”
He hinted South Carolina could look to purchase the site’s 1,500 acres for itself. The property sits on South Carolina’s side of the river.