The Palmetto Insider

The blog of the South Carolina Policy Council

Port Oversight Commission Examines Jasper Port Agreement

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The Port Oversight Commission, established through Senate bill 351, which became law in June 2009, is charged with overseeing the actions of the South Carolina State Ports Authority. The members of the commission include: 

  • Senator Larry Grooms- Chairman
  • Senator Hugh K. Leatherman
  • Senator Robert Ford
  • Senator Tom Davis
  • Senator Phillip Shoopman
  • Representative James H. Harrison
  • Representative Harry F. Cato
  • Representative William E. Sandifer
  • Representative James H. Merrill
  • Representative J. David Weeks 

The commission met Wednesday to discuss the intergovernmental contract between the Georgia and South Carolina Ports Authorities regarding the dredging of the Savannah River. 

The contract stipulates that the two organizations split the cost of dredging operations from Jasper county out to a buoy which marks the beginning of the channel. This would allow bigger ships to off load their cargo in South Carolina and would allow Jasper to become a viable port for shipping.   

Dean Moss, president of the Savannah River Commission, testified before the Port Oversight Commission on the environmental impact the dredging would have. An official environmental impact statement must be issued before work preparation begins. The official impact study will likely address ground water contamination, surface water contamination, dissolved oxygen levels, as well as the affect on the sturgeon population and wetlands. 

On September 24, 2009, the Savannah Morning News ran an editorial, “Carolina Crackpots,” that attempted to explain the economic and environmental impacts of the project. See the link below: 

http://savannahnow.com/opinion/2009-09-24/carolina-crackpots 

In response to the editorial, Dean Moss wrote a “Letter to the Editor,” which was published October 3, 2009.  See the link below:

http://savannahnow.com/opinion/2009-10-03/letters-editor-sunday 

The Army Corps of Engineers will pay for 75 percent of the total costs of the deep harbor dredge project. South Carolina and Georgia will “split” the remaining 25 percent; however, South Carolina will pay 50 percent of Georgia’s share. This was a point of contention during the meeting, as Senator Ford questioned how this arrangement was fair, and Senator Leatherman commented that if the measure came before the General Assembly, they would need to carefully review this agreement. But, Senator Davis pointed out that this agreement was approved by the General Assembly last session as part of S.351, and that it was too late to renege on the deal. An amendment to the agreement holds that either state can terminate the agreement if one is not holding up their end of the bargain. 

Representative Cato questioned how the project would be funded, citing that citizens often question if taxpayer dollars are used for South Carolina port operations. Senator Davis commented that the funding will be the responsibility of the South Carolina Ports Authority, which operates under its own revenue and capital projections. Senator Grooms mentioned that historically, the General Assembly has appropriated funds for dredging projects. 

The commission will meet again tentatively the week of December 7th.

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Written by SC Policy Council

October 8, 2009 at 4:26 pm

Posted in Committee Meetings

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