A contract award for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project will be postponed approximately one year because of a delay in acquiring required permits from the South Carolina Savannah River Maritime Commission and the Department of Health and Environmental Control.
In response to the permitting delay, the Corps of Engineers canceled an invitation for bids on an environmental mitigation construction contract for SHEP. The feature involves several modifications to tidal creeks in the upper harbor to reduce impacts of increased salinity associated with the harbor deepening.
According to the Corps, the solicitation was issued July 6 and cancelled August 30 because the Maritime Commission did not approve changes in the construction in time for a contractor to complete work required before a spring environmental exclusion window.
SC DHEC had requested USACE to perform additional modeling to show how the proposed modifications to the river would impact dissolved oxygen levels in the estuary. The Maritime Commission did not agree to the additional modeling in time for the Corps to award the contract this fall.
The Corps had requested a modification to the South Carolina Water Quality Certification and Construction in Navigable Waters Permit on May 23, 2017. The changes include deepening an additional stretch of 2,600 feet in Middle River, and using the excavated sediment to create wetlands in McCoombs Cut and Rifle Cut.
USACE reported that they are working with SRMC and SC DHEC to resolve the permitting issue and to resolicit and award the contract within the next 12 months. If the permitting issue is resolved within a year, this delay would not impact the overall SHEP completion schedule.
The environmental mitigation in this SHEP contract is one of three parts of the flow re-routing plan. The plan will direct more freshwater into the Back River area on the South Carolina side of the estuary. This would protect freshwater wetlands in the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge from saltwater intrusion.