DHEC won't hear Savannah harbor appeal

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COLUMBIA — South Carolina’s environmental board voted unanimously this morning not to hear objections from the Army Corps of Engineers and the Georgia Ports Authority to a separate South Carolina panel’s efforts to restrict the Savannah harbor deepening.

By conference call, following an approximately 20-minute closed session, board members for the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control issued their decision. Among their reasons: The Savannah River Maritime Commission’s May 8 Notice of Proposed Decision and its various terms and conditions were not a DHEC staff endeavor.

“Clearly, the issue about that is the jurisdiction … an active open case working through the legal system right now. So who has the jurisdiction certainly is up for question right now,” said DHEC board member Mark Lutz, who represents the 1st Congressional District.

The corps and the GPA argue that the Savannah River Maritime Commission, a panel created by the S.C. Legislature in 2007, had no authority to impose its own terms and conditions on Georgia’s $653 million harbor deepening. They had asked the DHEC board to invalidate the Maritime Commission’s May 8 notice, which includes limiting the deepening to 45 feet from its current 42 feet, instead of allowing it to be deepened to 47 feet, which is the depth the corps recommended.

The corps appealed to DHEC on May 23 in order to maintain its legal standing before the body while waiting for the S.C. Supreme Court to resolve a lawsuit filed by the Savannah Riverkeeper, the Maritime Commission and others against DHEC, said the corps’ Savannah District spokesman Billy Birdwell on Wednesday morning.

It was not immediately known after DHEC’s decision today what the two appellants’ next move will be.

Both the GPA and the corps noted that they are also petitioning for a contested case hearing before the South Carolina Administrative Law Court.

In the South Carolina Supreme Court conflict, the environmental groups argue the DHEC board usurped the powers of the Maritime Commission in November when the board granted the corps permits for water quality and construction in navigable waters.

That suit is one of several legal and legislative strikes and counter-strikes centered around what some consider to be Georgia’s key current public works project.

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JohnBrownAug
1962
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JohnBrownAug 05/31/12 - 12:00 pm
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$657 million?

That's a lot of money. Charleston is also going to be dredged at a huge cost, why does Savannah even need to be deeped to super ship depth? They are 100 miles apart. I seriously doubt not deepening Savannah would harm our state's economy with Charleston so close on the interstate. When did this contest between ports that has turned into a billion dollars get out of hand?

DawgnSC69
271
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DawgnSC69 05/31/12 - 12:18 pm
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Read between the lines

SC wants to limit the depth so that it can attract the super cargo ships to the Charlston ports. These super cargos require deeper channels and with the reconstruction of the Panama Canal that allow passage of these ships, it'll be big time business for the ports on the East coast.

It's all about money.

JohnBrownAug
1962
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JohnBrownAug 05/31/12 - 12:54 pm
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Dawg, of course we know

Dawg, of course we know that's what it is all about. My contention is we don't need two superports that close together.

dwb619
93168
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dwb619 05/31/12 - 08:23 pm
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Koch

I've read that the Koch brothers have an interest in the Savannah port.

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