Savannah Harbor expansion comments include shipwreck

CSS Georgia plans aired

Thursday, April 26, 2012 12:16 PM
Last updated 10:43 PM
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A plan to raise the wreckage of the CSS Georgia from the bottom of Savannah Harbor is generating lots of public comments, including at least one from Augusta.

The wreckage of the CSS Georgia, scuttled in 1864 to prevent its capture by Union forces, will be salvaged as part of the planned expansion of Savannah Harbor.  Special/U.S. Naval Historical Center
Special/U.S. Naval Historical Center
The wreckage of the CSS Georgia, scuttled in 1864 to prevent its capture by Union forces, will be salvaged as part of the planned expansion of Savannah Harbor.

The vessel, built in 1862 as an ironclad warship, spent its short life as a “floating battery” moored near Old Fort Jackson. It was scuttled in December 1864 to prevent its capture by Union troops.

The Army Corps of Engi­neers’ environmental impact statement for the $653 million harbor expansion includes $14.2 million to recover the ship’s remains.

One of the comments is from South­eastern Natural Sci­ences Academy President Bob Young, a former Augusta mayor, who suggested that some of the artifacts to be recovered be shared with Georgia cities – including Augusta – whose residents helped finance the ship’s construction.

“The Corps’ own research highlights the financial contributions of a number of Georgia cities through the Ladies Gunboat Association to pay for the CSS Georgia,” his letter said. “These cities and counties would be well served by giving them the option of receiving an artifact or two from the collection. Such an artifact would enable the local host to interpret the role of the Association in their community and link it to a relic from the ironclad they helped purchase.”

Young added that only a portion of the ship remains intact and that items removed during previous salvage efforts are in locations other than Savannah, where the corps plans to establish a repository for artifacts recovered before the dredging.

According to a study of the shipwreck commissioned by the corps, the surviving remains are “limited,” and the lower hull no longer exists.

“Two large sections of iron casemate and a third smaller section are present along with the vessel’s propulsion machinery including steam cylinders and at least one propeller and shaft, three cannon, a possible boiler, and miscellaneous, small, as of yet unidentified components and artifacts,” the study concluded.

The public comment period for the harbor expansion closes May 21.

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David Parker
David Parker 04/26/12 - 02:37 pm
I read Savannah will dredge

I read Savannah will dredge to deepen by 5 feet (for a total of 47) at a cost of 653 million. This does include the "salvage" of the boat mentioned in the article.

Here is what I found on something called DredgingToday.COM
The Corps stated in its Reconnaissance Study in 2010 that Charleston is likely “the cheapest South Atlantic harbor to deepen to 50 feet.” Charleston’s harbor deepening project is estimated to deliver $106 million in net benefits annually for an approximately $140-million federal investment. The total deepening project is estimated at $300 million.

So by my calculations (simulating adding machine in use), Savannah dredge project will cost more than double ONLY to get within 3 feet of the Charleston depth. Maybe all the big ships we are all trying to sway our way are fine at 47 feet, in which case, the 3 foot deficit will not matter. But then again maybe newer cargos require 47-50 ft depth.

Here's the rub, Charleston's geography is more suitable for a harbor. It's a big opening with immediate access to the docks. Savannah on the other hand, requires ships to enter a small waterway and wind around for miles up river to navigate into the docks.

This is all just fluff though, the quintessential point to make is not whether we should go ahead and commit to deepening. It is can we afford not to. Is there an alternative that isn't a worse option. Letting the port die is not a better option. It's better to be in the game then retired and not earning a paycheck. Despite the numbers revealing that economic principles should be checked at the door, money has to be spent to make the port viable against Charleston's. I just think the spending of a billion dollars to "keep up" isn't the best option.

The floor is yours.

Riverman1 04/26/12 - 07:55 pm
David Parker, good point. In

David Parker, good point. In Charleston ships do have to go up the Cooper River a few miles. The Ashley River side is not deep enough. But my bigger question is do we really need two super ports a hundred miles apart? I believe Charleston would benefit Georgia also. I'd like to see a study on THAT.

Easy enough to take I-26 to I-20 and then to Augusta and Atlanta. Rail is even easier. I mean we are talking almost a billion dollars for both ports. Even if the feds are paying a big portion that's still a lot of money.

David Parker
David Parker 04/27/12 - 08:32 am
We don't need 2 ports at that

We don't need 2 ports at that cost. It is "feasible" sure. Is is beneficial for Augusta, Savannah, Georgia? Charleston is the most suitable and will consistently be able to outperform Savannah. That is a fact from the information i've been looking at. Doesn't deepening the port in Savannah also threaten water levels at Clark's Hill? My guess is that if you couple the drought conditions, with upper river hydro-electric requirements, and then throw in lower river water depth requirements, our lake's destiny is sealed. Study these items with the millions already routed for feasibility reports.

Dr. E. Lee Spence
Dr. E. Lee Spence 04/27/12 - 10:40 am
I think it is great that

I think it is great that artifacts from the wreck of the CSS Georgia will be saved, however their recovery and preservation should not be done at tremendous expense to taxpayers.

If this project is done in the manner that some government archaeologists and bureaucrats might prefer, it could cost tens of millions of dollars. The taxpayers simply can not afford that.

There is a limited amount that can be learned from this wreck that is not already known, so please let the costs to the taxpayers be limited and not merely a source of revenue for a select few politicians and government officials.

Easily and cheaply preserved artifacts (made of glass, ceramics, brass, etc.) should definitely be raised, preserved and put on public display in various museums around Georgia and South Carolina. That is definitely worthwhile and I encourage it. But lets not waste enormous amounts of money on preserving large sections of wood or iron from the wreck. Limit what is saved from them to photographs, laser scans, and/or drawings.

Please listen to me. I speak from experience, as I was the person who discovered the wreck of the Civil War submarine Hunley off the entrance to Charleston and I donated my salvage rights to it to the State of South Carolina thinking that I was doing the right thing. I now regret that action.

The reality is that the Hunley quickly became a boondoggle costing taxpayers many millions of dollars (the total price tag may reach $100,000,000). There have been accusations of ethics violations, abuse of authority, misuse of funds and corruption surrounding it. Don't let that happen with the CSS Georgia.

David Parker
David Parker 04/27/12 - 03:23 pm
Thanks for testifying Dr

Thanks for testifying Dr Spence. Appropriate enough funding to retrieve and save the CSS Ga. artifacts and hold on with the dredging. Digging up the bottom of the Savannah at a rate of 100mil /foot deeper doesn't strike me as a "sound" idea (get it?). If we get some new studies and ideas, I'll be surprised and thankful, but I'm preparing for boondoggle aplenty.

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