S.C. Coastal Conservation League director vows “long and expensive battle” against Savannah River dredging

Steve Eames, director of the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League’s Beaufort Office, has a provocative editorial up today at FITSNews.

I appreciate Eames’ piece because he actually knows the facts involving the Corps of Engineers’ predicted environmental impacts, especially regarding the loss of marshland and the threat of losing oxygen in the water in the lower Savannah River. I’ve written about those issues in the past, but not enough people are taking the time to learn about the known impacts. Proponents of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP) often pretend that there will be no impacts. Opponents often ask questions that the science seems to answer and generally don’t rely on the most obvious arguments at their disposal: the very impacts that Eames discusses.

Eames talks a little bit about the complex political process that has led us to this point, before concluding:

Is it really worth it? This project has been touted as critical to the economic well-being of the region and the nation. Yet, according to Corps own economic analysis, deepening the river will not increase the container through put for the Port of Savannah even with the anticipated opening of the widened Panama Canal. According to the Corps, the SHEP will allow larger ships to transport the same goods that will marginally reduce shipping costs. But the Corps studies do not show that these alleged cost savings will be passed to US consumers instead of just going to international shipping companies or foreign manufacturers themselves. More important, the Corps did not see if bigger ships might be more cheaply – and less devastatingly – handled in Charleston or Jasper County.
This begs the question: Why spend $650 million of US taxpayer’s money and threaten a complex aquatic ecosystem to deepen the Savannah River?

We are all left to seek an answer. We oppose the Corps and GPA’s proposal to put the Savannah on unproven respirators, and we have appealed the DHEC board’s decision to certify the project.

This will be a long and expensive battle, but the Savannah is one of the most important, most historic and most threatened rivers on the East Coast. There is really no other option.

I don’t know if $100 million/year (approximately) should count as a marginal reduction in shipping costs, but Eames is absolutely correct that the economic predictions do not say where that savings will go — and do not even guarantee that those savings will primarily be put to productive use within the U.S.