Savannah River dredging: final report released by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Here’s the entire press release this morning from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (with a couple of key issues in bold). I’ll have much more later.

There’s sure to be much discussion about that final decision of 47 feet — that’s less than the 48 feet long-discussed and would seem on its face to raise even more questions given concerns that harbors of the future should ideally be 50 feet.

UPDATE: And a summary of the key findings:

Recommended improvements include: channel deepening from the sea through the harbor Entrance Channel to the Garden City Terminal to an authorized depth of -47 feet; channel widening to create meeting areas at Long Island and Oglethorpe Ranges; widening and deepening of the Kings Island Turning Basin; and channel widening at three bends. Recommended mitigation features include: preservation of 2,245 acres of freshwater wetlands; restoration of 28 acres of brackish marsh; construction of a fish bypass around the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam near Augusta, Georgia; installation, operation, and maintenance of oxygen injection systems at three locations in the lower Savannah River; construction of boat ramp on Hutchinson Island; construction of a raw water impoundment for water withdrawn from Abercorn Creek by the City of Savannah; and data recovery, removal and conservation of the remains of the CSS Georgia.


The final report—consisting of a General Re-evaluation Report (GRR) and an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)—concludes that deepening the harbor from its current depth of 42 feet to 47 feet is economically viable, environmentally sustainable, and in the best interests of the United States.

“Today’s release culminates 14 years of intense study, analysis, and coordination with state and federal agencies, stakeholders and the general public,” said Col. Jeff M. Hall, Commander of the Savannah District. “The cooperating agencies have unanimously agreed to the release of the final report.”

The following agencies served as Cooperating Agencies in preparing the final report: Environmental Protection Agency – Region IV; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service – Southeast Region; US Fish and Wildlife Service – Southeast Region; and the Georgia Ports Authority.

“The Final Report represents the most comprehensive study for harbor deepening in the nation’s history,” Hall said. “We are confident that our report is thorough and strong, and that the project will enhance the nation’s global competitiveness while sustaining the natural environment.” The final report recommends the 47-foot plan, which is also the “National Economic Development” Plan. Signing of the Record of Decision—the final step in the process before construction can begin—is anticipated in late 2012. The GRR-EIS study, authorized by Congress, reflects an extensive analysis of the engineering alternatives, environmental impacts, and economic costs and benefits of deepening the Savannah Harbor and shipping channel. Funded by the federal government and the state of Georgia, the study examined the characteristics of future international shipping fleets, current and future trade routes, and the capacity of the Garden City Terminal on the Savannah River. Based on analyses within the report, the 47-foot plan would bring $174 million in annual net benefits to the nation, with a cost-to-benefit ratio of 5.5 to 1. Essentially, for every $1 invested in the project, the nation would yield nearly $6 in returns. The estimated total cost for the project, based on fiscal year 2012 levels, is $652 million, cost-shared by the Federal government and the State of Georgia.

Of the total cost, 45 percent accounts for environmental mitigation features at $292 million. Environmental features include flow-rerouting for marsh restoration, a fish bypass upstream near Augusta for the endangered Shortnose Sturgeon, a dissolved oxygen injection system, recovery of the ironclad CSS Georgia, a 10-year post-construction monitoring period, and more.

The public can view the report online at . Comments can be submitted in writing to: Headquarters, US Army Corps of Engineers, CECW-P (SA), 7701 Telegraph Road, Alexandria, VA 22315-3860. The official closing date for the receipt of comments is May 20, which is 30 calendar days from the date the notice of availability appears in the Federal Register.


About Us: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Savannah District manages three lakes and hydroelectric dams along the Savannah River. It also oversees a multi-billion dollar military construction program at 11 Army and Air Force installations in Georgia and North Carolina. Corps’ projects range from barracks, hospitals and clinics to maintenance facilities, headquarters buildings and aircraft hangars. The Savannah District also has oversight and maintains additional civil works projects – from the Savannah and Brunswick harbors to the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.