South Carolina ports officials are walking away from a proposed port project with Georgia for the second time this year. The fight over the planned jointly-run Jasper Ocean Terminal on the Savannah River comes as federal funding for Savannah harbor deepening looks more likely. A Georgia official calls new South Carolina demands "a game."
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley says, she was misinterpreted last year when she seemed to soothe opponents of Savannah harbor deepening. Some South Carolinians see Savannah's proposed port expansion as a threat to Charleston's port. Her words last year came up this week when reporters asked her about a permit South Carolina recently gave to Georgia's project.
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 Georgia Water Coalition has put the Ogeechee River in southeast Georgia at the top of a new list of dirty Georgia waterways. The coalition representing 180 groups and businesses is highlighting the Ogeechee after a massive fish kill soiled the river in May. The Altamaha is at number two on the list because of Jesup's Rayonier paper mill.
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.
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.
The Commerce Department is still waiting to sign off on a plan to deepen the Savannah harbor. Georgia officials want a deeper port to serve larger ships. But the federal Marine Fisheries Service has concerns about habitat loss for endangered shortnose sturgeon. An official says, there's no timeline, but a report to make a decision is coming.
Georgia wants millions in federal dollars to deepen Savannah harbor. Georgia officials believe the project that has significance not just for the state, but for the whole nation. But other states want the money, too. Right now, however, the nation has no national strategy for determining where taxpayer dollars would be best spent.
Officials working to build a jointly-run Georgia and South Carolina port on the Savannah River will spend the next year looking at what to do with the river's sediment. The dredged clay will come from the bottom of the Savannah River and will be put on the river's South Carolina bank where officials want to build the shared port.