Army Corps endorses deepening of Savannah River to 48 feet

The following is the text of a press release issued by the Georgia Ports Authority:
(SAVANNAH, Ga.) — The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP) reached a major milestone today when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to the public and agencies for review and comment.

“The study’s release is a significant step forward for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project and addresses a critical need of our country’s transportation infrastructure,” said Georgia Ports Authority’s (GPA) Executive Director Curtis J. Foltz. “We appreciate the hard work and dedication of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the various resource agencies and other interested organizations who have been major contributors to the successful completion of this project of national significance.â€

As the fastest growing and fourth largest container port in the nation, and strategically positioned with two Class I rail providers on a single terminal, the Port of Savannah is responsible for moving 8.3 percent of the U.S. containerized cargo volume and more than 18 percent of all East Coast container trade in FY2010 (July 1, 2009 – June 30, 2010). The Port of Savannah, which boasts a uniquely balanced export-import ratio, handled 12 percent of all U.S. containerized exports — a total of 1.14 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units).

In preparation for the Panama Canal Expansion in 2014, the GPA has embarked on an aggressive expansion and modernization plan to more efficiently accommodate newer, larger vessels that are already calling on the U.S. East and Gulf Coasts. These vessels like the CMA CGM Figaro, which called on Savannah in August 2010, offer more capacity and lower cost per container compared to current Panamax vessels.

The SHEP will deepen the river from its current 42 foot depth to as much as 48 feet. The project is widely supported by Georgia’s state leadership, which has appropriated $105 million of construction funds to date.

“The draft EIS represents the most exhaustive environmental study of the Savannah River estuary ever undertaken,†said Foltz. The $40-million scientific study details plans to avoid impacts to natural resources and proposes mitigation for any unavoidable impacts of the SHEP.
“This project – one of the most important and productive civil works projects in the country – will maintain and create jobs and commerce throughout the nation, while significantly reducing transportation costs for U.S. shippers,†said GPA’s Chairman of the Board Alec L. Poitevint. “As the Southeast’s gateway to the world, our harbor must be able to accommodate these vessels without tidal restrictions in order to efficiently serve global commercial demands.â€

Copies of the Draft EIS and Draft General Reevaluation Report (GRR) have been furnished to Federal, State, local, and other agencies of interest. Electronic copies of the Draft EIS and Draft GRR can be obtained from the following website:

Written statements regarding the Draft EIS and Draft GRR for the proposed action will be received at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District Office until noon, December 30, 2010.

Georgia’s deepwater ports and inland barge terminals support more than 295,000 jobs throughout the state annually and contribute $15.5 billion in income, $61.7 billion in revenue and $2.6 billion in state and local taxes to Georgia’s economy.

By Professional Mariner Staff