The Issue: The US Army Corps of Engineers, via the Draft Environmental Impact Study (EIS) is proposing to deepen 38 miles of the Savannah River from 42 to 48 feet deep. The project is intended to accommodate a larger class of container ships, known as Post-Panamax ships.
The Impacts: Dredging 38 miles of the Savannah River to a 48 foot depth would place at tremendous risk natural resources of national significance and of great value to the states of South Carolina and Georgia. Further it would allocate $600 million taxpayer dollars to a project that has not offered evidence of either national benefit or real job creation. Specifically, the concerns are:
• Saltwater Intrusion. Repeated deepenings have already caused saltwater from the Atlantic Ocean to move further up the Savannah River, resulting in serious impact to the freshwater system upstream. This saltwater intrusion has created significant problems, most notably loss of over 8,500 acres of tidal freshwater marsh. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service identified tidal freshwater marsh as the single most critical natural resource in the lower Savannah River. If approved, the deepening would impact an additional 1,212 acres of freshwater tidal wetlands.
• Degradation of Water Quality. Deepening to 48 feet will cause a significant decline in dissolved oxygen in the Savannah River and its estuaries. Aquatic species require a particular level of oxygen. To compensate for worsening the already-present dissolved oxygen impairment, the Corps has proposed the use of a mechanical oxygen injection system to pump oxygen back into the river. Such a system is unproven in an estuarine system like the Savannah River and even if it would work as a technical matter, the proposal fails to include funding to ensure it will work indefinitely.
• Contamination of Drinking Water. Allowing larger volumes of saltwater to move further upstream will degrade the City of Savannah’s Municipal and Industrial water intake on Abercorn Creek, a tributary of the River. In fact, the City of Savannah Bureau of Water Supply has officially objected to the proposal as is. The City of Savannah maintains that saltwater intrusion from the project will lead to increases in lead and copper in Savannah’s drinking water supplies. A new $40 million water intake system might address the issue, but no funds are allocated for such a facility.
• Groundwater Contamination. The deepening also threatens to contaminate groundwater supplies by increasing salinity and reducing the thickness of the confining layer separating the bottom of the Savannah River and the Upper Floridian aquifer, thereby facilitating saltwater intrusion into the aquifer under the navigation channel.
• Harm to Wildlife. Shortnose sturgeon, Atlantic sturgeon, and striped bass are all in peril if the deepening occurs. In addition, the project threatens to harm other federally-listed species, such as North Atlantic right whales, sea turtles, and manatees.
• No-Growth Assumption Unfounded. The EIS maintains that the growth in container volume will be exactly the same, whether or not this deepening occurs. Which begs the question – Why are taxpayers being asked to pay $600 million for this project?
• Trickle-Down Effect. According to the EIS, not one new job is projected as a direct result of the deepening. Rather, the dredging’s projected economic benefit is based entirely on increased efficiencies: fewer but larger ships. Presumably, cost savings will be passed down to consumers in the form of lower prices for retail goods. In turn, purportedly, this will inject more money into the economy and create new jobs. This trickle-down theory is unsubstantiated.
What You Can Do
Send your friends, family, co-workers, leaders, politicians and other folks to portbarrel.org and…
1. Learn what federal and local agencies are saying about the deepening.
2. Follow the developments and let your local, state and federal representatives know your concerns with the project.
4. Add your organization’s name (or logo!) to the list of citizen’s concerned about the environmental impacts to the Savannah River and the fiscal impact to our nation.