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Bankrupt mill could become Georgia's third ocean port

Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012 2:49 PM
Last updated 7:05 PM
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ATLANTA -- The site of a paper mill that has gone bankrupt could provide Georgia a third ocean port, Coastal lawmakers learned Wednesday.

Camden County Development Authority Executive Director David Keating said for $12 million, the state could grab a new economic-development engine. He hasn’t projected the potential, but the port of Savannah, for instance, has an economic impact of more than $27 billion and is credited with 300,000 direct and indirect jobs.

“It was incumbent upon us, being good Georgia citizens, to make sure the state was aware of this before it slips away,” he said.

In addition to Savannah’s port, the Georgia Ports Authority operates an ocean port in Brunswick and two inland ports on the Chattahoochee River at Columbus and Bainbridge. The ocean ports are among the fastest-growing in the country.

However, Florida has 14 ports, Keating said.

“We have tremendous opportunity to grow and capture some of that business,” he said.

The 720-acres site of the mill is on the St. Marys River, just 3 miles upstream from a shipping channel maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at 48 feet deep to accommodate submarines stationed at the Kings Bay Naval Base and the port in Fernandina on the Florida side of the river. No bridges cross the river between the mill and the ocean.

Plus, it’s next to the St. Marys airport, has large-scale electric and natural gas service, and the CSX railroad is already on site. Interstates 95, 16 and 10 are all close.

The mill has a dock where it used to receive shipments of timber via barge, so it could begin service from shallow vessels as soon as buildings are constructed to replace the mill that has been demolished. Dredging would be required to service bigger, ocean-going ships.

Keating has already presented his idea to Gov. Nathan Deal and to the Ports Authority.

“I don’t think we have a position,” said James McCurry, director of administration at the Ports Authority.

Rep. Ron Stephens, chairman of the House Economic Development & Tourism Committee likes the idea.

“I would love nothing more than to have three major ports,” said Stephens, R-Savannah.

No estimate has been made of the cost to construct the port or extend the channel to it, Keating said. Deal’s budget proposal doesn’t include money for buying and equipping another port, although it’s still under consideration by the House of Representatives.

Deal did include $47 million for deepening the channel on the Savannah River.

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Little Lamb
Little Lamb 02/15/12 - 03:56 pm
I think I would pass on this

I think I would pass on this deal. It would benefit Florida more so than Georgia.
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P.S. Don't tell Riverman about the Corps already dredging this river. He will begin worrying about salt water intrusion.

David Parker
David Parker 02/15/12 - 04:21 pm
Sodium Chloride polarity

Sodium Chloride polarity inversion syndrome all over again. Good Grief!

Riverman1 02/15/12 - 04:33 pm
LL, it's okay with me. But it

LL, it's okay with me. But it does mean adequate releases from Thurmond Dam will be necessary.

writerrick 02/16/12 - 09:16 am
Riverman, Look at your map or

Riverman, Look at your map or these days GPS/Smart Phone. Why would we need to drop more water from Thurmond Dam into the Savannah River to help with this port located in St. Mary's. Oh! Wait a minute I get it now! Another excuse to keep out lake, Clark's Hill ridiculous low all year so we can't enjoy and use it. Good call!

allhans 02/16/12 - 01:48 pm
The price seems right. 12

The price seems right. 12 millions dollars is not a lot of money for a project of this size.
Is it needed? I have no idea...

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