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Corps warns it may ignore SC to deepen Ga. harbor

October 16, 2011 • Business


In this Feb. 22, 2011 photo, a ship passes the downtown business district as pedestrians stroll along the Savannah River in Savannah, Ga. As Georgia officials and the federal government work to deepen the river channel cargo ships use to reach Savannah’s bustling seaport, regulatory objections that could threaten the $600 million project are being raised by a third party that’s also a stakeholder, neighboring South Carolina. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — As Georgia officials and the federal government work toward deepening the river channel used by cargo ships to reach Savannah’s bustling seaport, regulatory objections that could threaten the $600 million project are being raised by a third party — neighboring South Carolina, a stakeholder that also operates the nearest competing port.

The Savannah River, which Georgia wants to deepen along 35 miles between the Port of Savannah and the Atlantic Ocean, forms a shared boundary with South Carolina. In a recent filing, South Carolina environmental regulators denied a water quality permit sought by the federal agency overseeing the project, saying it would cause unacceptable harm to the waterway’s endangered fish and fragile marshes.

The Army Corps of Engineers has appealed the rejection by South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control. If the two agencies can’t reach an agreement, the project could wind up in court.

The big question, which doesn’t have a clear answer, is how much legal weight South Carolina’s objection carries. Has Georgia’s 14-year push to deepen the river hit a mere speed bump, or has it slammed into a brick wall?

“It’s a very significant development,” said Chris DeScherer, an attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center who has followed the Savannah project. He argues the federal Clean Water Act allows states to veto such projects.

The Army Corps says just the opposite. Login to read more

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