A scuttled Civil War battleship at the bottom of the Savannah River is just one of many complicating factors in Savannah’s bid to become a port able to handle 1,200-foot mega tankers expected to start moving through the Panama Canal in 2014.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers/AP
Before Savannah, Ga., realizes its dream of becoming a world-renowned tanker port, it’s having to deal with tough reminder of its past, in the form of a scuttled Civil War battleship rotting in the Savannah River.
The dredging of the Savannah River has become one of the biggest economic and political footballs in the South, pitting Georgia and South Carolina interests against each other over how to deepen the river that splits the two states where the lowcountry meets the Atlantic’s tidal estuaries.
At stake are not just bragging rights, but millions of dollars in trade that could raise the profile of the languid, Spanish-moss laden city that inspired the 1990s bestseller, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”
South Carolina politicians just this week put the brakes on a bill that would help the US Army Corps of Engineers argue in front of the South Carolina Supreme Court to dismiss a lawsuit brought by environmentalists to stop the project. Lawmakers worry how the Savannah expansion will affect a planned port expansion in Jasper, S.C., as well as Charleston Harbor’s competitiveness as the Panama Canal begins allowing super-tankers through in 2014.
South Carolina’s $300 million bid to expand Charleston’s port by 2020 is a major issue. The expansion “is the biggest strategic issue for South Carolina today,” Jim Newsome, the chief executive of the South Carolina Ports Authority, told McClatchy newspapers recently.