There are two sound bites that you will hear over and over from the proponents of this deepening.
One is that because the Corps spent 13 years studying the project, the studies are perfect. This is like saying that a student that takes 13 years to complete a 4 year college degree will be a superior student. The other sound bite that is equally implausible is the assertion that the unusually high price tag for environmental mitigation in this project is evidence that all has been perfectly mitigated. Both are untrue — the truth is that it took this long and this much money for this project to come anywhere close to mitigating and it still fails.
As we are learning the hard way over and over again, there is only so much manipulation and engineering of nature that can be done. This proposed deepening represents an over-reach. $52 million is allocated for enormous oxygen injection systems that few believe will work. Among those who do not believe these bubblers will work: US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries and USGS. $7 million is allocated for a fish ladder for fish that have never been shown to use a fish ladder. The decimation of 340 acres of tidal freshwater wetland will be “mitigated” by the purchase and restoration of 2,500 acres of other types of marsh — not a single acre of which is tidal freshwater. This is comparable to decimating one kind of bird on the brink of extinction (as tidal freshwater marsh is indeed on the brink of extinction) — say a bald eagle, and attempting to make up for it by introducing 10 times as many pigeons to the same area.
The studies proclaim a cost benefit ratio of 1 to 4.5 for the 48 foot deepening. A project only needs to reach 1 to 2.5 in order to pass the Corps test. However, the Congressional Budget Office generally recommends a slightly higher ratio. Which means this one is close. Close enough to be cutting corners — like the $40 million that was not included for a new intake pipe for City of Savannah water supply. Lead and copper in our drinking water is hardly a minor impact, and funding for that mitigation is a pretty alarming corner to cut. More on that cut later.