The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wants a federal judge to toss a lawsuit that says a $650 million deepening of the Savannah River shipping channel needs a South Carolina pollution permit. The Georgia ports want the channel deepened to handle larger ships that will call when the Panama Canal is deepened. Conservation groups on both sides of the river have sued.
Georgia's business and political leaders eagerly awaited this week's final report on Savannah harbor deepening. But while it's the US Army Corps of Engineers' last word on the project, it's not the last word in the public debate over whether the deepening should happen. The agency next week will open a comment period.
Georgia ports officials are asking state lawmakers for $46 million for Savannah harbor deepening in the upcoming legislative session. But it's not the only item they'll be following. Georgia Ports Authority also is interested in the results of a year-long initiative to re-write laws affecting businesses.
Georgia and South Carolina lawmakers are applauding a deal to fund new East Coast port projects. Congress approved $460 million in port spending as part of a larger deal on the federal budget. But the deal doesn't mean Savannah's harbor deepening is automatically funded. Congress is making the ports compete for the money.
Conservation groups are suing to stop Savannah harbor deepening. The Savannah Riverkeeper, the Southern Environmental Law Center and other groups are challenging a South Carolina agency’s approval of a permit for the dredging of the Savannah River.
The nation's top transportation official is promising to call a meeting on the Savannah harbor deepening project. What Georgia officials really want, however, is Congressional funds. The state is seeking about $400 million in federal funds to deepen Savannah's harbor. That money has become hard to come by since the Recession.
The latest request for a new drinking water reservoir in Georgia isn't coming from Metro Atlanta, but from the coast. Savannah officials say, the city is going to need a new drinking water source when the Savannah harbor is deepened. The deepening project will push saltier water into the Savannah River, where the city gets much of its drinking water.
Environmental regulators for South Carolina have denied a permit sought by the Army Corps of Engineers to deepen the river channel to Savannah's booming seaport in Georgia. Officials said in documents filed late Friday that the plan to dredge the bottom of the Savannah River would cause unacceptable harm to its water quality.
It'll be another year before the Georgia Ports Authority can expect major funding for a long-sought Savannah harbor deepening project. The agency's director says, given the project and budget timelines, the best Georgia can hope for in the budget now before Congress is $600,000 requested by President Obama. That's enough to keep the project going but far less than the $100 million needed to start construction.