In February, Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich told Morris News Service he would deepen Savannah’s port if he’s elected commander-in-chief.
“I think it has to be done,” the former House speaker said. “You have the widening of the Panama Canal, which will be completed by 2014, and if you don’t appropriately expand the harbors, you can’t deal with the new, larger shipments, so it’s really very, very important.”
Steve Willis, vice chairman of the Sierra Club, Georgia, questioned the project’s value in a column for the Saporta Report.
“Taxpayers may end up footing the bill for the building, maintenance and permanent life-support for unneeded port facilities,” he wrote. “And the U.S. economy may be handicapped for the rest of this century by a ports and goods movement infrastructure which was obsolete even before it was built and which cannot compete with the thoughtfully designed infrastructures of Asia and Europe (as well as the U.S. West Coast’s).
“America is likely to deeply regret its foolish interstate rivalries, petty political grasping for port pork, and obliviousness to the overarching requirement to know what you are doing before dumping billions of taxpayer’s dollars into fragmented, wasteful and ill-considered port projects – utterly devoid of any real national plan or strategy.”
Chris Clark, president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, responded in the same publication. An excerpt:
“According to the Georgia Department of Economic Development, exporting globally creates twice as many jobs as trading domestically, and companies that are able to sell overseas grow an average of 18 percent faster — often needing new employees to accommodate that growth.
Given these facts, it is easy to understand why the deepening of the Savannah harbor is so important, not only to Georgia, but to the nation — which will experience $150 million in annual benefit from the project according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”
From the Georgia Conservancy website: “The risks posed by the project are clear. Deepening the port could worsen the low-oxygen ‘dead zones’ in the river. Saltwater may push farther upriver, endangering freshwater wetlands at the adjacent Savannah National Wildlife Refuge. Also of concern: the impact on the habitats of the striped bass and federally endangered shortnose sturgeon.
“Ultimately, our support or opposition will rest upon whether the project’s mitigation and monitoring measures ensure that the deepening performs as promised, now and in the future.
“The Georgia Conservancy has submitted comments to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during the formal comment period on the proposed deepening plan. We detailed what we said are flaws in the proposed monitoring and mitigation plan and recommended steps the Corps should take to ensure the health of the estuary’s ecosystem.”