Why Everyone in Georgia Should Care About the Port of Savannah Deepening Project

MORE DELAYS IN COMPLETING THE CORPS OF ENGINEERS ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STUDY COULD COST GEORGIA BILLIONS OF DOLLARS AND MANY JOBS. THE STUDY HAS LASTED 14 YEARS AND COST $36 MILLION, AND IT’S STILL NOT READY.   

 Ships continue to be the main source of transoceanic cargo delivery.   That’s why the Port of Savannah is so important to the state, and even the Southeast region.  I read that it is the second busiest port on the East Coast, the fourth busiest and fastest growing one in the country,  but it has a big problem.  Namely, the foot-dragging bureaucracy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  

The Savannah port just isn’t quite deep enough to handle the really big ships.  Sometimes they use it anyway, but they can’t load them to capacity.  In  2014 this will be a bigger problem. That’s when the Panama Canal’s expanded canal is expected to open. It will allow huge container ships in the Pacific to call on East Coast ports.  

The Savannah River is only 42 feet deep.  The Georgia Ports Authority wants to deepen it by at least another 6 six to allow the larger ships to come calling.   

The big problem is the Corps of Engineers seemingly never-ending environmental study that, according to an editorial in the Savannah Morning News, has been going on for 14 years at a cost of more that 36-million dollars.  This getting beyond absurd.  

The study was supposed to ne finished by 2007, but wasn’t.  Now the corps is saying it will not be finished until 2011, if by then.  It will take three years to deepen the channel.  That means it is critical that the study is completed no later than 2011 because not to deepen the channel will mean the really big container ships will use East Cost ports that can serve them.  That will be an huge economic  loss to Savannah and Georgia.   

In my view, no thinking person would want to deepen the channel if it causes irreparable environmental damage. It is known that it will cause more salt water to flow upstream, which could have negative impact on the delicate estuary system. An estuary is where salt water and fresh water meet and mix. It is critically important to sea life. Channel deepening could also send salt water into the freshwater aquifer beneath the Savannah River.  The study should answer those questions.  Why, though, has it taken 14 years and 36 million dollars to come up with those answers?  

Massive container ship starting its 15-mile trip down the Savannah River from the Savannah Port to the Atlantic Ocean. This shot was taken from the balcony of the VU Lounge and Restaurant at the Hyatt in downtown Savannah.

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