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Monday, January 10, 2011 - 8:00pm

Critics Challenge Port Project's Impact On Jobs

With about two weeks remaining in a public comment period for the Savannah harbor deepening project, some environmental groups are challening a key claim of the project's backers.

They doubt it'll create jobs.

In a massive, 3,000 page report that was delayed two years to be absolutely right, economic analysts for the US Army Corp of Engineers say, harbor deepening will benefit the nation $115 million a year and will pay back its costs four-to-one.

But how many jobs it will create is hazy.

Dave Kyler of the Center for a Sustainable Coast calls claims about jobs "reckless hearsay."

"There is no analysis, no finding, in the Corp assessment that leads to the conclusion that there will be jobs created by this project," Kyler says.

There is mention in the report of about 5,000 jobs created during the construction phase, a number Kyler finds highly dubious and "coercive."

And as to the project's long-term effects on jobs, a Corp of Engineers spokesman says, the agency was neither required nor authorized to study it.

Reports from the University of Georgia point to the link between the ports and jobs.

Georgia Ports Authority spokesman Robert Morris says, the effects are obvious.

"Close to 300,000 jobs depend every day on the ports and their ability to move cargo in and out of this state," Morris says. "And we know that without the deepening, those jobs will be at risk."

Officials with the longshoreman's union and other maritime and transportation workers join state and local officials in pushing the deepening based on the idea that the half-billion-dollar project will create jobs.

The Corp expects to give the project final approval late this year.