Ga., S.C. economic officials back Savannah River dredging

The following is the text of a press release issued by the Georgia Ports Authority:
(SAVANNAH, Ga.) — Leaders from the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA), Savannah Economic Development Authority (SEDA) and Lowcountry Economic Alliance (LEA) signed a joint resolution today recognizing that maintaining strong port capacity and deepening both the Savannah and Charleston harbors are critical to the economic health of both the State of Georgia and the State of South Carolina. Additionally, the partners recognize the need to develop the Jasper Ocean Terminal infrastructure.

“The proposed deepening of the Savannah River is clearly important to the economic vitality for Georgia and South Carolina,†said GPA Executive Director Curtis J. Foltz. “Each of our organizations recognizes the importance of bringing to fruition the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, the deepening of the Charleston Harbor and the development of the Jasper Ocean Terminal infrastructure. We firmly believe this region’s future demographic growth requires all three ports to be successful.â€

According to the joint resolution: “In order for the Port of Savannah to remain competitive in the near term, and to allow post-Panamax ships to have full access to the Savannah River and its ports, the river must be dredged to 48 feet as envisioned by the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project.â€

Deepwater ports in Savannah and Charleston are key U.S. gateways to international trade and must both be deepened in order to accommodate the new generation of containerships, which will begin to dominate ocean commerce when the expansion of the Panama Canal is completed in 2014.

“The Savannah Economic Development Authority Board of Directors unanimously approved this resolution to express our strong support for the deepening of the Savannah harbor, the Charleston harbor and the development of the Jasper Ocean Terminal,†said SEDA President and CEO Steven Weathers. “The Ports of Savannah and Charleston have been two of the greatest economic assets of this nation since their founding and, in order to continue to compete globally, they must be deepened. We are proud to be part of a region that is cooperating to achieve the highest and best results for the country, our states, and our citizens.â€

Deepwater terminals along the Savannah River support hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout Georgia and South Carolina. It is estimated that as much as 60 percent of the employees at deepwater terminals along the Savannah River are Georgia residents and as many as 40 percent are South Carolina residents. GPA, SEDA and LEA have vested interests in assuring that all of the Savannah River port terminals, present and future, are strengthened to provide vital stimulation to the Savannah River basin.

“Lengthy conversations with our counterparts in Georgia have shown that we have the same goal, and that is economic prosperity for the Lowcountry and Coastal Empire,†said Kim Statler, a member of the Lowcountry Economic Alliance’s board of directors. “Our competitors are oversees, not across the river, and this resolution outlines a common understanding that the Savannah River is a critical component of that regional success.â€

Through this resolution, the organizations individually and jointly support the creation of a bi-state compact by the Legislatures of Georgia and South Carolina, go on public record to encourage the creation of such a compact at the earliest possible time and will each take appropriate action to encourage entry into a bi-state compact. Upon approval of this compact by the Georgia and South Carolina Legislatures, the organizations will support the filing for permits for the Jasper Ocean Terminal by the Jasper Ocean Terminal Joint Project Office and will each take action to support the commencement of the permitting process.

“This partnership with Savannah has been a long time coming,†said Jasper County Administrator Andrew Fulghum, “And it is based on an understanding that we must succeed as a region. The Savannah River is a vital asset as we work to create prosperity in Jasper County, and we must work together to ensure that asset remains an economic anchor not only in the Lowcountry and Coastal Empire but all of the Southeast.â€

Completion of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP) is critically important to continued economic growth in the Southeastern United States. The SHEP will deepen the Savannah River from its current 42 foot depth to as much as 48 feet to allow these post-Panamax ships to call on the Port of Savannah. A deepened harbor will enable the Port of Savannah to more efficiently serve larger ships.

The Savannah Economic Development Authority (SEDA) is the economic development arm of Chatham County, Ga., formed to stimulate the economy through the attraction of investment, the creation of jobs and the support of established businesses already in the area

The Lowcountry Economic Alliance (LEA) is the regional economic development arm of Jasper and Beaufort Counties, S.C., formed by the respective County Councils to create an economic vision for the region, attract new business and diversify the tax base.

By Professional Mariner Staff