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Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - 11:56am

South Carolina Pulls Out Of Jasper Port

Updated: 3 years ago.
With Georgia to the south and South Carolina to the north, the Savannah River is a shared resource between two states. It's also a political football that splits ports officials into warring factions. Billions of dollars and thousands of jobs are potentially at stake. (photo RJones0856)

South Carolina ports officials once again are pulling out of a joint effort to build a new Savannah River port with Georgia.

The proposed Jasper Ocean Terminal has been a political football between the two states for about a year.

The proposed port would be located on the South Carolina side of the Savannah River and would be jointly run by the bordering states.

South Carolina ports officials have walked away from the project twice, this time demanding concessions that would stall Savannah's proposed harbor deepening project.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal's spokesman, Brian Robinson, says, Deal will continue to work with South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to advance the joint port.

"Georgia has been an honest broker. Georgia has bent over backwards to meet demands from South Carolina," Robinson says. "It's a red herring. This is gamesmanship."

Deal and Haley say, the new port would create jobs in both states.

"The only game that we're involved in here is teamwork and there are folks in the sand box throwing sand. And that's not going to help," Robinson says. "That's not going to create one job in Chatham County or in Beaufort and Jasper Counties in South Carolina."

However, South Carolina ports officials say, Savannah's deepening could delay or kill the Jasper Ocean Terminal.

The political turf war has heated up as the Savannah deepening has neared.

South Carolina Ports Authority Chairman Bill Stern says, it would not be feasible to build the $5 billion Jasper Ocean Terminal with the Savannah harbor deepened as Georgia officials propose.

"The proposed Savannah River deepening was probably fine when first conceived in 1999, but today's global shipping environment requires more," said Bill Stern, chairman of the SCPA. "It's a bad deal for the taxpayer to spend billions of dollars for a new Jasper Ocean Terminal on a last generation river."

South Carolina ports officials want Savannah's harbor deepened only up to the proposed Jasper port site -- effectively scuttling the Georgia-only project.

A South Carolina Ports Authority press release also demanded "releasing the 50-year federal easements on the entire site, sharing equally the costs of infrastructure to the site, determining the navigational capacity of the Savannah River and ensuring equal, dual-rail access from both major railroads."

The decision ends South Carolina funding for the joint project.

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