The state Department of Health and Environmental Control has asked a judge to enter a lawsuit between an environmental group and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over a controversial dredging project in Georgia.
In June, State Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal told DHEC attorneys the agency broke the law by approving the project without the input of the Savannah River Maritime Commission. Now, DHEC wants to reenter the lawsuit again, with attorneys arguing that DHEC would still have to issue a pollution permit for the dredging project if it’s finally OK’d.
The Southern Environmental Law Center is suing the Army Corps of Engineers over a proposed $650 million project to dredge the Savannah port, which would allow deeper ships to deliver more cargo. The group argues that dredging the river would lower its water quality and damage rare marshes.
Other opponents of the project, including several state lawmakers and other officials, say a deepwater terminal in Savannah might lessen the need to deepen Charleston’s port. It could also eliminate another proposed shipping terminal in Jasper County, compounding the dredging project’s negative economic effects on South Carolina.
In addition, former U.S. Congressman John Spratt (D-SC) was assigned last month to help mediate the lawsuit. Thank goodness this state still has a few actual statesmen left!
For its part, the Army Corps of Engineers has voiced its support for the Charleston port by is accelerating dredging projects there and in six other U.S. ports projects by at least nine months as a part of President Obama’s “We Can’t Wait” jobs initiative. President Obama increased federal funding to South Carolina’s ports after being asked for the money by Gov. Nikki Haley — despite the governor’s past support of the Savannah port over her own state’s business interests.