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Officials want to take over the joint port project on the Savannah River

Officials want to take over the joint port project on the Savannah River

Jasper County has been trying for more than two decades to put a terminal on the river across from Savannah. Its efforts were opposed in court by both states — which share the river and operate competing ports in Savannah and Charleston — before their governors agreed in 2007 to take on Jasper County’s port dream as a joint project between the neighbouring states.

The board overseeing the partnership, made up mostly of port leaders from each state, has bought land for the shipping terminal and spent millions of dollars on feasibility studies but progress has been slow, and local officials say they’re fed up.

Members of the Jasper County Council left the board’s June meeting angry at what they considered another pointless delay. In July, the council voted to deliver an ultimatum. If the joint port board doesn’t agree to start seeking construction permits for the project at its next meeting September 17, 2013 then Jasper County will demand control of the port project and the 1,500 acres of land purchased for it.

County officials say Jasper County would have legal standing to demand a takeover, citing a law passed by South Carolina legislators in 2009 that says if the shared port fails to be developed “in an expeditious manner,” one solution would be to terminate the partnership between the two states and “transfer to Jasper County the assets and right to develop the port.”

“The people at the Joint Project Office just keep putting it off and putting it off,” said Henry Etheridge, chairman of the Jasper County Council. “Turn it over to us, and let us get a private concern in there to go forward.”

Georgia and South Carolina have sought to control the project because they see an opportunity to expand their market share by attracting cargo that would otherwise go to competitors such as the Port of Virginia. The states also see potential to attract more trade with Asia. They say Jasper County would be able to handle up to 7m containers of imports and exports each year, more than what now moves through Savannah and Charleston combined.

(Source: AP News)