Senate: Jasper Port Panel Must Comply with State Law (USA)

The State Senate unanimously voted to advance a resolution that makes it clear that only south Carolina representatives can spend South Carolina’s tax dollars. The resolution conclusively settles any remaining question that the Savannah River Maritime Commission not a bistate panel is solely responsible for handling state issues relating to dredging the Savannah River.

The resolution also reaffirms South Carolina’s members on that panel cannot obligate South Carolina’s money for the river deepening unless a majority of South Carolina’s members vote for it.

The resolution restates that the state’s Savannah River Maritime Commission is responsible for all matters pertaining to the navigability, depth, dredging, wastewater and sludge disposal, and related collateral issues in regard to the use of the Savannah River as a waterway for ocean-going container or commerce vessels. The move comes after the Joint Project Office (JPO), a GeorgiaSouth Carolina group charged with advancing a future bistate ocean cargo terminal in Jasper County, last month took steps to obligate public funds to assist in dredging the Savannah River for the Port of Savannah — not for a Jasper port.

Georgia officials are anxious to deepen the river and the Savannah Harbor to benefit the Georgia Ports Authority. The bistate JPO’s vote to use South Carolina funds passed without the support of a majority of the South Carolina members and without the concurrence of the Maritime Commission.

“The State Senate today stopped a robbery in progress,” says State Senator Larry Grooms, a member of the Maritime Commission and Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. “Georgia was caught red-handed, trying to reach into South Carolina taxpayers’ pockets.” Without the Senate vote, “Georgia gets our money to dredge their port and ruin our shared river, while South Carolina gets nothing but its law violated and the chance of a port at Jasper dashed. Why in the world should we help fund the cost of dredging all the way to the Savannah port and pay to dispose of their sludge?”

This resolution will help stop Georgia from raping our river and ripping off our taxpayers,” says Lt. Governor Glenn McConnell, who also serves on the Maritime Commission. “South Carolina’s money should be spent only with the approval of South Carolina’s JPO members — not the Georgians. Secondly, the resolution reaffirms that the bi-state project must comply with South Carolina law relating to dredging and sludge disposal matters on the Savannah River.”

The Senate vote comes as the Army Corps of Engineers dealt something of a blow to the Georgia Ports Authority. The GPA sought permission to dredge the Savannah River to 48 feet. In a nod to environmental concerns, the Corps announced that the river could be deepened to just 47 feet.

That one foot difference is significant as East Coast ports race to dredge their harbors in preparation for a wider and deeper Panama Canal. A rule of thumb is that for each additional foot of depth, shippers can load on cargo vessels an additional 100 cargo containers. The Port of Charleston is seeking the go ahead for its plans to dredge to at least 50 feet.

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Dredging Today Staff, April 18, 2012;

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