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Monday, January 30, 2012 - 12:00pm

Dredging Roils South Carolina Politics

South Carolina's legislature is revolting over the Savannah harbor deepening project.

Columbia lawmakers last week passed resolutions objecting to the proposed project, essentially blackening South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley's eye.

Haley and Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal support the project, aimed at attracting larger ships to the Port of Savannah.

The South Carolina lawmakers object on environmental and business grounds.

University of South Carolina political scientist Mark Tompkins says, the fight pits powerful Palmetto State politicians against each other.

"It reflects a failure of the politics in the state," Tompkins says. "If the governor is going to negotiate on behalf of the state, it’s important in a state like this one to involve some of the key political leaders, particularly in the General Assembly. It appears that involvement didn’t happen."

Tompkins says, the legislature is exercising its political muscle.

"Our governor is often portrayed as being relatively weak and being more dependent on the legislature than governors in many states." Tompkins says. "And that fact looms over this struggle."

Federal officials can push the project over South Carolina objections, but have shown no interest in doing so.

Such a decision likely would spur an interstate court fight.