USA: Public Workshop to Explain Harbor Deepening Environmental Issues

Biologists and project managers from the Savannah District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will explain the various environmental issues raised by the proposed deepening of the Savannah Harbor during a public workshop to be held 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., Dec. 15, at the Savannah Civic Center. The public may “come and go” at any time during the workshop.

The details on the project are contained in the draft General Re-Evaluation Report and draft Environmental Impact Statement, released by the Corps on Nov 15. The proposed increased harbor depth will benefit the national economy while the project impacts will be mitigated to an acceptable level, according to the report. In addition to biologists and project managers, the workshop will give the public an opportunity to talk with other environmental specialists, engineers, and economists about the harbor deepening, ask questions, and submit comments.

The Corps of Engineers has proposed deepening the harbor and shipping channel from its current depth of 42 feet down to as deep as 48 feet. Experts will be ready to explain the many environmental aspects associated with the proposed deepening including:

· Possible impacts to wetlands and how the Army Corps of Engineers proposes to mitigate these impacts through engineering and land acquisition.

· Plans to inject oxygen into the harbor water to maintain the dissolved oxygen levels in the harbor and channel. The project calls for removing water from the Savannah River, injecting it with oxygen, then returning it to the river. Maintaining the current dissolved oxygen level is essential to fish habitat in the river.

· Safety of Savannah’s drinking water from the Floridan aquifer. “We have carefully studied the potential impacts to the aquifer for several years,” said William Bailey, Chief of the Savannah District’s Planning Division. “Our extensive study shows that deepening the harbor to as deep as 48 feet will have an insignificant impact on the aquifer and no affect on drinking water.” The Corps conducted the aquifer studies in cooperation with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Environmental Protection Division, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, and the U.S. Geological Survey.

· Restoring an old dredged material disposal site to brackish marsh to replace wetlands that would be lost.

· To evaluate potential impacts to air quality, the Corps developed an air emission inventory for the port. The inventory identified the various sources of air emissions and allows organizations that are responsible for air quality to focus on the sources that produce the largest volume of emissions. The investigation found that a deeper channel would reduce air emissions by allowing fewer, but larger vessels to carry cargo through the port.

· Beneficially using sediments excavated from the entrance channel by placing them in the nearshore sand sharing system.

· Plans to build a fish by-pass around the New Savannah Bluff Lock & Dam near Augusta to open new spawning habitat for endangered Shortnose Sturgeon.

Workshop details

The workshop will be held on the second floor of the Savannah Civic Center, at the corner of Liberty and Montgomery Streets.

Hours are 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and participants may attend anytime between those hours. Parking is free for workshop participants.

The Corps will provide stations for the public to submit written comments and record oral statements. Written and oral comments become part of the official record for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project and will be addressed in the final documents.

The public comment period for the draft General Re-Evaluation Report and the Environmental Impact Statement runs until Jan. 10, 2011.


Source: usace, December 3, 2010