By Sara Corbett
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District’s regulatory program strives to provide fair, reasonable and timely permit decisions that balance economic development needs while protecting the environment. In an effort to maintain this balance and to be open and transparent with the public, the Corps held a public scoping meeting on the proposed Jasper Ocean Terminal on Jan. 31 at Hardeeville Elementary School.
The proposed JOT is a state-of-the-art marine container terminal on the northern bank of the Savannah River in Jasper County, S.C. that includes the development of an approximately 1,500-acre project site and associated road, rail, and navigation improvements.
“This unique project proposes dredging 12,500 linear feet of berths, an access channel, and a 2,200-foot wide turning basin,” said Nat Ball, project manager. “It also includes the construction of a four lane access road to connect the terminal to U.S. Highway 17, an on-site rail yard, more than 12 miles of rail lines, and a new rail bridge across the Savannah River.”
JOT Joint Venture, which is a partnership between the Georgia Ports Authority and South Carolina State Ports Authority, is proposing this project to keep both ports running effectively and efficiently in the future. The JOT Joint Venture predicts that the two ports will experience limitations and inefficiencies in the future as a result of forecasted growth for containerized cargo in the region over the next 35 years.
This new terminal is being designed to accommodate seven million TEUs of containerized cargo per year. Currently, Garden City Terminal, which is approximately eight miles up the Savannah River, handles 3.6 million TEUs per year and is expected to reach capacity in the next eight years.
“The construction and operation of the proposed port facility requires a Department of the Army permit because it would result in the placement of fill material in approximately 54 acres of wetlands and dredging 439 aces of navigable waters,” said Ball.
Due to the overall size and scale of this project and the potential environmental impacts, the Corps is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement. An EIS is an in-depth method of assessing the effects of a proposed project on the environment and the adjacent community. The Corps held an open house and a public scoping meeting to present information about the JOT and to provide community members, individuals and organizations the opportunity to submit comments.
“We want to hear from the people who live near the proposed project site,” said Ball. “We need to know what their concerns are so we can properly identify and evaluate potential social, economic and environmental impacts associated with the JOT while preparing the EIS.”
The meeting had a great turnout, with more than 150 attendees, most saying their top concerns were roadways and the environment. The Corps will consider issues such as air, noise and light pollution, fish and wildlife, transportation infrastructure, and impacts to the Dredged Material Containment Areas that are used to maintain Savannah Harbor.
For more information on the project visit www.jasperoceanterminaleis.com.