Charleston Post & Courier on “Savannah’s dredging gamble”

If you scroll through my recent posts, you can see links to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s 3-part series about the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP), a $650 million dredging that would make the Savannah River deeper to accommodate larger ships after the Panama Canal widening is complete.

Despite myriad doubts raised in that 3-part series about the economic benefits, the Savannah River’s depth after dredging, and the environmental impacts (which deserved far more play than they got in the otherwise excellent series), the AJC editorial page came to this conclusion: Port Wars: Georgia can’t afford not to fight for port funding.

From that editorial:

More to the point, in the absence of a national strategy governing how Washington divvies up taxpayer dollars to pay for work on U.S. ports, Georgia has no rational choice but to keep rowing toward full funding of the $650 million deepening project to keep Savannah competitive. It’s every state, and port, for itself until this nation gets better metrics to judge competing projects.

The editorial, written by Andre Jackson for the board, justifies this opinion by citing all of the known — and current — economic impacts of the Georgia ports. None of which would be jeopardized without dredging, according to the Corps of Engineers.

Based on the evidence, the AJC’s editorial is not a very rational one.

Today, the Charleston Post and Courier editorial board has weighed in on the AJC series. From Savannah’s dredging gamble:

The rival port of Charleston wants to deepen its shipping channel to 50 feet at a cost of $300 million-$350 million. In terms of price and environmental impact, it is clearly a better option than the Savannah project.

But in the absence of a national port development plan, it won’t necessarily make a difference. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has endorsed such a comprehensive review proposal. Altogether, 10 ports on the East and Gulf coasts are planning similar projects.

Nevertheless, the details cited in AJC reporter Dan Chapman’s series appear to bolster Charleston’s case.

For example, the Corps of Engineers has predicted “no additional cargo volume through Savannah Harbor as a result of the proposed harbor deepening.”

This is in contrast to Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s prediction of “much more cargo coming in.”

I noted that same discrepancy between Governor Deal’s beliefs and the official projections.