New lawsuit just another complication for Savannah River dredging

My City Talk column on Sunday is about the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project — the controversial plan to deepen about 30 miles of the Savannah River channel to accommodate larger cargo vessels expected to come to the East Coast after the Panama Canal expansion is completed in 2014. I write mainly about jobs and all the misinformation out there about both economic and environmental impacts.

I’ll post a link here on the blog when the column is up at SavannahNow.

But today in the AJC and other publications, there’s this AP piece: Groups sue over Savannah River deepening project:

The suit, filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center, was brought on behalf of the Savannah Riverkeeper, the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League and the South Carolina Wildlife Federation.

[. . .] The lawsuit asks a judge to declare that the corps needs a South Carolina Pollution Control Act permit to put dredge spoils on land. It notes the corps’ own draft environmental impact statement on the deepening indicated that there is cadmium in clays that would be removed as the river bottom is deepened.

It said the deepening project, which has been studied for 15 years, “would degrade water quality, destroy marshlands, endanger a national wildlife refuge, put at risk threatened and endangered species and other wildlife and alter forever one of South Carolina’s and Georgia’s most valuable aquatic resources.”

That last paragraph is accurate in its facts.

The article also notes:

This week, the state Senate unanimously gave a second approval to a measure suspending the authority of the state’s environmental agency to make dredging decisions for the Savannah River.

The joint resolution is designed to help lawmakers rescind a water quality permit granted by the Department of Health and Environment Control last year giving South Carolina approval for deepening the shipping channel.

In the South Carolina House, both Republicans and Democrats took turns last week decrying the decision as disastrous to the state’s economy and environment and approved the measure 111-0.