Mon., February 21, 2011 4:51pm (EST)

EPD Okays Harbor Deepening, With Caveats
By Orlando Montoya
Updated: 3 years ago

SAVANNAH, Ga.  —  
Shipping containers are stacked for transport.  Getting more of them to the Georgia Ports Authority is the objective of state officials pushing an expansion of the Savannah harbor.  But environmental groups say they won't be boxed in.  They're objecting to the expansion project based on its environmental effects, the planned mitigation and the economic justification.  (photo Christopher Charles)
Shipping containers are stacked for transport. Getting more of them to the Georgia Ports Authority is the objective of state officials pushing an expansion of the Savannah harbor. But environmental groups say they won't be boxed in. They're objecting to the expansion project based on its environmental effects, the planned mitigation and the economic justification. (photo Christopher Charles)
The Savannah harbor deepening project has cleared another hurdle now that state environmental officials have given their okay.

The green light was expected.

A state Environmental Protection Division official assured US Army Corp of Engineers officials months ago that the project would get approved.

What wasn't known was exactly what EPD would say in its approval.

The division laid down 15 conditions for the project.

These include monitoring for water quality and injecting more oxygen into the Savannah River.

"The dredging operations must maintain this," says EPD Director Allen Barnes. "So if they're not maintaining that, then it would stop at that time until they meet those conditions."

Barnes says that there was no political pressure to approve the project, which has unwavering support among Georgia's politicians.

But environmental groups say that Georgia's approval was a politically forgone conclusion.

And they doubt the conditions will ensure water quality.

"It's like turning in your paper to your teacher who really likes you," says Andrea Malloy of the South Carolina-based Coastal Conservation League. "And they say, 'Don't worry. I'm going to give you an A. But I'll look at it."

South Carolina could be a bigger hurdle.

Environmental officials in the Palmette State also have to give their approval for the project to continue.

And they haven't promised anything.