South Carolina governor thwarts eco-activists vetoing anti-dredging bill

2012 03 02

SOUTH CAROLINA governor Nikki Haley vetoed a bill that lawmakers had passed to suspend the authority of a South Carolina state agency after it granted a permit last year to dredge the Savannah River.

The permit was approved by the state's Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) board in November, even though the agency's staff had originally rejected the application, the American Shipper reported.

The permit is opposed by environmentalists, and is also controversial because it benefits the terminals in Savannah operated by the Georgia Ports Authority which is in strong competition with the South Carolina State Ports Authority's facilities in Charleston.

Governor Haley said in her veto message that the joint resolution, which was unanimously approved by both South Carolina's House and Senate, "amounts to unconstitutional legislative overreaching into an agency's ruling" and "reflects a fundamental misunderstanding about the administrative process."

At issue is a water quality permit that DHEC approved last year, which is also being challenged in court. In December, the Environmental Law Centre claimed the 38-mile deepening project would deplete the Savannah River's dissolved oxygen needed by shortnose sturgeon and devastate hundreds of acres of swamp.

Meanwhile, it's been reported that the governor has asked President Barack Obama to find more money to deepen Charleston and other Atlantic ports so the state can accommodate larger ships expected in greater numbers after the Panama Canal is widened in 2014.

"If we don't get our ports actually deep enough to be able to accept those big ships, we are going to have a wasted opportunity and watch the Caribbean be the ones to benefit," she said.

Governor Haley also called for faster approval of deepening projects by the Army Corps of Engineers and for use of money from the Harbour Maintenance Trust Fund for deepening projects.

Source Shipping Gazette - Daily Shipping News

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