Port Project Squanders Millions
Guest Editorial by David Kyler
Executive Director, Center for a Sustainable Coast
In the interest of taxpayers and full disclosure, some important
considerations need to be brought to light regarding the recent approval of
the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) by the U.S. House of
Contrary to Rep. Jack Kingston's praise for cutting "bureaucratic red tape"
and expediting projects, the bill will result in billions in tax dollars
squandered on projects of dubious benefit. Moreover, by eliminating
important environmental evaluation requirements and spending controls, still
more waste at taxpayers' expense will occur.
WRRDA is not a "huge win," as Kingston claims, but a fiasco in the fight
against pork-barrel spending. This bill is a major setback.
The Savannah harbor deepening project is a prime example of the
legislation's failure to honestly support taxpayer interests. Although the
project is estimated to cost $652 million, about half of that is to pay for
attempts to limit, or compensate for, harm to water quality, fisheries,
wetlands and other resources of great economic value. For this reason alone,
it's prudent to doubt the project is well justified.
The history of Army Corps of Engineers performance does not bode well for
the reliability of such mitigation, its real costs to the public or its
proper assessment after implementation. WRRDA does nothing to improve these
It doesn't provide the follow-through needed to ensure that when mitigation
efforts don't work, project damage will be reliably controlled. Regulatory
exemptions created by the act will further weaken controls by eliminating
vital review sanctions, causing still more wasted tax dollars, since damage
repair after the fact will be expensive, if not impossible.
When damage recovery is impossible, economic hardships will be shifted onto
tourism, fisheries, coastal communities and property owners, with losses
potentially reaching millions of dollars annually.
Significantly, despite lengthy study of the Savannah project, there has
never been any evaluation of the actual need for deep-water ports in the
Southeast. Based on careful observation of existing ports in the rest of the
world, including the U.S. West Coast, only a few deep harbors will even be
As a candidate for deepening, Savannah's port, being 38 miles upriver, does
not compare well with other ports in the Southeast, including some that are
already deeper than Savannah's will be after spending at least $652 million.
It is notable these other ports are also much more accessible to ocean
shipping channels, without risky navigational problems.
Many experts agree that U.S. competitiveness in a global market does not
depend on deepening every port along the East Coast. For U.S. competitive
interests as well as taxpayer safeguards, it is best to deepen only a few
ports both strategically located and naturally well-suited. Savannah's port
is not one of them.
Whether federal funding or state money is used for this project, taxpayers
are the unwitting dupes paying the check. The House version of WRRDA is the
David Kyler is executive director of the Center for a Sustainable Coast.
Atlanta Forward: Regional Economy
By Rick Badie
Georgia's leaders are pushing for the deepening of the Savannah harbor and
port to accommodate larger cargo ships.
The U.S. House of Representatives cleared an obstacle to deepening the
Savannah harbor with passage of the Water Resources Reform and Development
Act. It removes a spending cap on the dredging project. Rep. Jack Kingston
of Savannah praises the "pro-job, pro-America" legislation, while a coastal
environmentalist deems it a "major setback."
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