S. CAROLINA STATE PORTS 2006 - Muddy waters: The Jasper port poser

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Will a new containerport be built on the South Carolina side of the Savannah River? ‘Yes’ is the likely answer. Box volumes are rising and most East Coast boxports are close to the limits of their respective footprints. When will it be built? Who will build the port? Who will pay for the port? Who will administer the Port? All are pieces of a riddle that must be answered.By George Lauriat, AJOTJust a short mosey up the Savannah River on the South Carolina side of the riverbank sits the Jasper County low country. The 1,800 acres are owned by the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) and is designated a disposal site for dredge spoil. On the surface, it appears an unappealing bit of real estate that would embroil two neighboring public agencies from two neighboring States, the US Army Corp of Engineers (USACE), and pit Jasper County ambitions against those of South Carolina’s own port authority. Throw in a number of private corporations with multiple overlapping interests and the waters muddy even more.
Like most riddles, everything started simply enough. The GDOT bought 1,800 acres downstream of what is now the state-of-the-art Garden City facility. The USACE designated the site for Savannah harbor project spoils. Interest in the site perked up in the late 1990s at the time South Carolina Port Authority (SCPA) was working on the concept of expanding the Port with facilities on Daniel Island. (This effort was later abandoned in 2002 and now the former Naval base is designated for the project.) In 2000, Jasper County and Seattle-based SSA Marine entered in to an agreement to study the feasibility of building a boxport on the north bank of the Savannah River. In December, Jasper County filed its first notice of condemnation against GDOT, to take the property by eminent domain for the purpose of building a terminal. This move caught the attention of public officials on both sides of the Savannah River. From a purely practical point of view, Georgia didn’t want a new box terminal built closer to the Atlantic to compete with its own facilities. Secondly, it surely didn’t want this to happen on land that it owns even the land was in another state. The South Carolina State Ports Authority (SCSPA) didn’t feel much better about the proposal. In essence, the Jasper County facility would also be a competitor to the facilities in the Port of Charleston, itself. From a far more fundamental perspective, does the SCSPA’s legal mandate to build and administer State ports supersede that of a County’s?
In 2002 South Carolina’s The 14th Circuit Court said Jasper the right to condemn the Georgia-owned proposed port site. The Circuit Court decision was appealed and later went South Carolina’s Supreme Court and the decision was overturned.
In 2004, Jasper County decided to create a Jasper port authority. Later, SSA Marine and Jasper inked a development and management agreement. According to Court documents On January 7, 2005, the Jasper County Council adopted Resolution #05-01, which authorized County to enter into development and management agreements with South Atlantic International Terminal, LLC (SAIT), a private company. Under Resolution #05-01, County would own the land and the public marine terminal. SAIT would assist County in developing and managing County’s terminal, and SAIT would serve as Port Developer/Manager for County.” Also on January 7, 2005, Jasper County offered to purchase the “Proposed Site” from the landowner, GDOT. Jasper County notified GDOT that it would commence condemnation proceedings if negotiations to purchase the land failed, and on January 19, 2005, Jasper County filed a “Notice of Condemnation” against GDOT. Almost immediately the SCSPA files a suit against Jasper County in Supreme Court. The GDOT also filed to dismiss and later challenge the condemnation.
In what was almost a sidelight to the legal proceedings, Jasper County approached SCSPA with a compromise that if accepted would obviate the need for a court ruling. The compromise was later rejected an

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American Journal of Transportation