USA: SC Ports Authority Suspends Jasper Funding
The South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) Board yesterday said deepening of the Savannah River up to the future Jasper Ocean Terminal should be an alternative to the currently proposed deepening project. Until that happens, it has suspended future funding related to the Jasper Ocean Terminal and set out a path for the two states to get the project back on track.
At its regular monthly meeting, the SCPA board discussed how the proposed Savannah River deepening project would be insufficient to handle the larger container ships that already call the U.S. East Coast and that are expected to increase with the expansion of the Panama Canal.
“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.
He noted that a 50-foot deep channel has emerged as the minimum standard for the post-Panamax world in other East Coast ports – including New York, Baltimore, Norfolk and Miami – but the Savannah River would fall short even after deepening.
For some time Stern and others have warned that the proposed Savannah River deepening project could severely delay or even kill the prospects for a terminal in Jasper.
“It’s a bad deal for the taxpayer to spend billions of dollars for a new Jasper Ocean Terminal on a last generation river,” said Stern. “That means another deepening project, beyond the one currently being reviewed, would be required.”
The Board concluded that it is not feasible to build a multi-billion-dollar Jasper Ocean Terminal under current and proposed conditions, voting to suspend funding related to the project.
To realize a terminal in Jasper, Stern called on Georgia to join with South Carolina in requesting that the Corps consider dredging to the Jasper site as an alternative in the Final Environmental Impact Statement, noting that such a project would cost much less and generate significantly fewer environmental impacts.
The SCPA will also seek to amend the intergovernmental agreement between the states, detailing specific actions required to help the Jasper Ocean Terminal.
Changes would include 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.
“I hope our neighbors in Georgia share our long-term commitment to a Jasper Ocean Terminal and work with South Carolina to ensure its future,” Stern said.
Dredging Today Staff, December 21, 2011;