Poll Position: Who should pay to deepen Savannah’s port?

Throw a rock, and you just might hit a Georgia politician or business leader who says Savannah’s port needs to be deepened.

With the Panama Canal set to accommodate larger cargo ships within three years, once its expansion is complete, the port at Savannah could reap huge benefits. So, too, could the rest of the state, given that Georgia is already a hub for freight. But to do so, the Savannah River has to be dredged so that the port can handle the larger ships.

Who should pay for the deepening of Savannah's port?

  • The port itself (82 Votes)
  • The state -- it's not the feds' responsibility (56 Votes)
  • The state -- if the feds don't deliver (29 Votes)
  • The feds (17 Votes)
  • No one, it shouldn't be deepened (15 Votes)

Total Voters: 199

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Yesterday, the port got a huge win: South Carolina’s environmental agency, which has a say in the matter because it shares authority with Georgia over the Savannah River, reversed an earlier decision to block the deepening. But it was not an inexpensive victory. South Carolina will receive $1.2 million a year for the next 50 years “to ensure enough oxygen is pumped into the river to prevent summertime fish kills,” according to the story by my AJC colleague Dan Chapman.

From whom? Good question.

Georgia has been seeking federal funding for the deepening, which was expected to cost $650 million before yesterday’s $60 million agreement with South Carolina, but it’s unclear whether Washington will pay up. The requests have been a bit awkward: Georgia’s congressional delegation is heavily Republican, the administration is of course Democratic, and Congress is split and under pressure to cut spending.

Georgia officials maintain the state will pay for the deepening if the feds don’t. But whose responsibility should it be? That’s this week’s Poll Position. Vote in the nearby poll and explain yourself in the comments thread.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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74 comments Add your comment

arnold

November 11th, 2011
5:47 am

Not much of a choice in your poll. What’s wrong with the companies who use the port. Capitalism and all that. :-)

Joel Edge

November 11th, 2011
5:53 am

How about a state and port vote. Both will benefit.

JF McNamara

November 11th, 2011
6:19 am

If the fed pays, isn’t that a little hypocritical of Georgia? There was a lot of hate from our delegation about pork spending and states rights. It’s karma if we don’t get the money from them.

South GA citizens and politicians are also constantly dogging Atlanta, but this is basically a handout from Atlantans to them. We’d benefit, but I’m also disinclined to help. Plus, they are all Republican and this is free market. Loan the companies money and make them pay it back instead of giving it away.

The lesson for all? Stop biting the hand that feeds you for short term political gain, and stop voing for ideology that is against your best interest. It’s short sighted.

Ayn Rant

November 11th, 2011
6:24 am

Sounds like a bribe to be paid to South Carolina. Just goes to show what anachronisms states are! Just think of the billions of dollars we could save, and the years lost to obstruction we could gain, by simply eliminating states! Who needs them? What have they ever done for anybody?

DeborahinAthens

November 11th, 2011
6:26 am

We need to get this done. The importance cannot be overestimated. But our bumbling around is another example of how we have lost our edge. My son, who is in logistics, was in China. And one of the major shipping cities, which one I can’t remember (maybe Shanghai), did a study to figure out how to bring the largest ships into their port. The couldn’t dredge it deep enough, so they decided to build an island close by. They didn’t do environmental studies, no unions bitched and moaned, there was no political corruption, to my knowledge, and guess what? They built a frackin island with a beautiful port facility that my son said was the most amazing thing he has ever seen. I assume there is a multiple lane bridge for the container trucks to get to and from the mainland. This is why China is eating our lunch. Who should pay for our port dredging? Why not use state, federal and private investment?

jt

November 11th, 2011
6:27 am

The Feds HAVE no money.
.
sheeesh.

Jack

November 11th, 2011
7:16 am

Right. The feds have no money. The State and port should pay for it and keep the Feds out. Sell some bonds.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

November 11th, 2011
7:21 am

The users should pay for it.

Atticus Finch

November 11th, 2011
7:25 am

LBB and I agree on very little, but in this case we agree: the companies that will profit from it.

Ronnie Raygun

November 11th, 2011
7:25 am

Wasn’t there a port tax not too long ago that was to pay for things like dredging the port? Oh yeah, Georgia Republicans eliminated it as a sop to big business and now they go running to the taxpayers to pay for what the companies that make money off of the port use to pay for.

That’s the conservative way: privatize profits, socialize expenses.

Streetracer

November 11th, 2011
7:26 am

Seems to me that the two states and the affected local communities should pay fot it based on some formula related to expected future benefit. That is those who expect to gain most would pay most.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

November 11th, 2011
7:26 am

Ayn, right on. We should have but two states, both occupying the same land mass. Citizens of the red state would have (and pay for) minimal parasite maintenance programs and a very libertarian regulatory regime. Citizens of the blue state would have (and pay for) every parasite maintenance program their little hearts desire and all the overbearing regulations they want. Everyone would be free to change citizenship whenever they wanted, since the red state would welcome all who are willing to pull their weight, and the blue state folks just want to “help people”.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

November 11th, 2011
7:28 am

That’s the conservative way: privatize profits, socialize expenses.
——————-

Two words: Franklin Raines.

PinkoNeoConLibertarian

November 11th, 2011
7:36 am

This would have been an even better topic if it had stopped after the first 11 words.

JohnnyReb

November 11th, 2011
7:41 am

If things were as they should be, Georgia should pay for the port improvements either through tax money, port fees, or both. However, things are not as they should be. No, this is a perfect example of the mess politicians have made of our tax system – send most of it to Washington so they can decide where it will be best spent. Republicans are not without sin in this, but the do-gooders deserve the lions share of blame. Some liabilities need to be shared, for example, interstate roads through low population states, but the idea to make everything and everyone equal is the root cause here.

Barry – can we divide left to right giving the North to the do-gooders? I hate cold weather.

Streetracer

November 11th, 2011
7:45 am

Should have added that the states and communities would be payed back using the same formula from future port fees.

JDW

November 11th, 2011
7:52 am

Classic infrastructure spending…government spends money creates jobs now and in the future. I can see why the Republicans are in a bind…they know they should but it supporting it shows them for the hypocrites they are.

Streetracer

November 11th, 2011
7:57 am

LBB & Atticus:

Problem with companies that benefit paying is that none of us are all knowing (can’t spell “omniscient” without looking it up). How would one identify in advance which companies would benefit?

@@

November 11th, 2011
8:00 am

But it was not an inexpensive victory. South Carolina will receive $1.2 million a year for the next 50 years “to ensure enough oxygen is pumped into the river to prevent summertime fish kills,” according to the story by my AJC colleague Dan Chapman.

Can’t we just have local politicians blow into plastic tubes all along the Savannah River?

EJ Moosa

November 11th, 2011
8:10 am

The users of the port should pay for it. And it should be a simple decision for them. If they spend X dollars to expand, and it will save them enough to justify it then move forward.

And if they cannot justify expansion because their return on investment is too low, then don’t do it.

If you have to use jobs created and other ways to justify it, then it’s already a lost cause.

Ignatius

November 11th, 2011
8:22 am

Uh, the port authority?

Bobbo

November 11th, 2011
8:30 am

Your voting thingy is not working.

sean Smith

November 11th, 2011
8:30 am

Every time I fly out of Hartsfield I pay a fee on my ticket to cover airport expansion.Treat the harbor issue the same, tack a fee onto every container that comes through the port to pay for the deepening.

Bobbo

November 11th, 2011
8:31 am

Never mind, working now.

commoncents

November 11th, 2011
8:32 am

yep, the state and the port. Time to sell some bonds and hire competent workers after fair bidding for the project.

Southern Comfort

November 11th, 2011
8:35 am

Who should pay to deepen Savannah’s port?

The people who want to deepen it should pay for it. There should not be a single tax dollar used to do it. The fed is already chest deep in debt, the state of GA doesn’t have the money, so the people who will profit from it should be the ones to pay for it. If the state or fed gets involved it should be a loan only that’s paid back before any company receives one penny in profit.

Middle Man

November 11th, 2011
8:36 am

As a conservative, why would I ask the Feds to pay for a state port? Tax the businesses that use it to pay for it.

Atticus Finch

November 11th, 2011
8:36 am

StreetRacer: how do you who uses the State Parks? It’s easy: user fees.

Streetracer

November 11th, 2011
8:44 am

Atticus:

Exactly. But since one can’t know in advance who the “users” are, wouldn’t it be reasonable for present entities to pay for it and then be paid back out of the future users fees?

carlosgvv

November 11th, 2011
8:48 am

Big Business will be able to increase profits if Savannah’s port is deepened. The politicians will, one way or another, get that $1.2 milion off the backs of Georgians.

Give me a break

November 11th, 2011
8:49 am

As a retired global logistics manager for a fortune 500 company this issue is the heart of our problems in the USA. As a nation we don’t need 3 super ports so close to each other (Jacksonville, Savannah and Charleston). Plus, we cannot afford 3 super ports. Besides ship lines are not going to call each port because it costs more time and money to do so. They will transport the containers to from one port to the other by rail or truck.

We may have needed 3 ports when the ships were smaller and more frequent loadings/unloadings but not with these super ships.

Charleston and Savannah have been feuding for decades. This feud has caused over spending. Because Charleston and Jacksonville have a natural ports the cost of up keeping these ports will be less costly than trying to upgrade Savannah’s unnatural port.

Since both States, Georgia and South Carolina want to cut spending they should start at home. Don’t ask the federal government for the money when our Republican leaders are blaming Washington for over spending. You can’t have it both ways. Is ok to spend money on our projects but not to spend money on other states projects. Our Republican leaders in Georgia and South Carolina are hypocrites.

The steamship lines should pay for these costs. They are the ones who are going to use these facilities. Besides what if the tax payers pay for these costs and the steam lines decide to use another port. All we have done is spend money and not receive anything in returned.

MM

November 11th, 2011
8:52 am

Free market! Free market! Free market! Let the transportation industry firms pick up the tab. Oh yeah, it’s the other way around now. Public expense, private profit. Love the hypocrisy from the “leave me alone so I can create jobs” business types. Actually, I support deepening the port because I think in a non-propoganda way. Go Savannah!

jd

November 11th, 2011
8:56 am

Sell the Ports Authority to private investors. If investing in deepening the port is so attractive, Walmart and Home Depot, among others, will surely invest in the project. The state cannot afford to invest in the port if it cannot afford to invest in transportation systems to move the people or schools to keep the people competitive.

Hypocrite Hunter

November 11th, 2011
8:57 am

@EJ Moose encapsulated the solution succinctly. I rarely believe anything I hear from politicians anymore…how can you with the nepotism and cronyism that pervades the system? I don’t know whether dredging the port makes practical sense or not. I do know that the Feds could support it by suspending Davis-Bacon and all environmental and regulatory federal hurdles, and the private sector could decide if its cost effective for issue of bonds. If State regulations are insufficient to protect the scenery, why do we have the departments?

Separate issue..nice $60m payola to SC. When I was growing up, enforcers would threaten shopkeepers with broken windows. Now the threat is to tie your project up for decades with bureaucratic red tape.

Tony

November 11th, 2011
8:58 am

The state and the port authority should share the cost. The entire state benefits from the imports/exports through the ports in Georgia. The businesses that utilize the port also receive huge benefits.

Tea Party Hobbit

November 11th, 2011
9:07 am

People are asking how to know which businesses to have pay for the deepening. Easy way to do that is to have Ports Authority pay for it. They know best who uses the port, and who would benefit, and they can pass along the costs accordingly.

Road Scholar

November 11th, 2011
9:08 am

Tony: The entire east coast over to the Mississippi River benefits since freight rcd/sent goes up I 95, I85, I75 and I 20 to other states all the way to Canada! So theere is interstate trade that benefits. It should be a partnership of fed, state, and private monies.

Has anyone toured the port and seen what an operation it is? It’s amazing watching feight loaded as other freight is unloaded at the same time. Have you ever seen a helicopter in shrink wrap?

jconservative

November 11th, 2011
9:15 am

The Georgia Ports Authority can pay for it. That is why they exist.

Junior Samples

November 11th, 2011
9:19 am

Give me a break,
Nice post, thanks for the background info. Sounds like if they institute a “usage fee” the ships will steer towards the cheapest port.

Now with Ten Percent More Flavor

November 11th, 2011
9:23 am

Funny how those Georgia Republicans have been so quick to bite the hand that has fed them until they get hungry enough. GOPrinciples do not allow for flexibility, Kyle. Taking any money means that someone has to fork over tax dollars and that is a GOP sin of the highest order. Just ask Grover.

Tea Party Hobbit

November 11th, 2011
9:40 am

Having lived in Charleston for a couple of years, I am very familiar with the feud and with the issues they face there. While Charleston may have the better natural harbor, Savannah is generally perceived as having better infrastructure. More rail lines, plus closer access to I-95, give it an advantage over Charleston. Also Savannah has more room for expansion – there is relatively little development along the Savannah River up past the city. In Charleston, go much further up the Cooper and it gets shallow and swampy, and when I left there was a lot of new development going in around that area. If Savannah does deepen its port, it does portend trouble for Charleston.

George

November 11th, 2011
9:41 am

Our republican congressional delegation has boxed itself into a corner. They are against jobs programs, extending unemployment benefits, or any program that helps people.
Yet they want the federal government to dredge the port of savannah. Baloney. Follow their logic, the companies that would benefit should pay for it

UGA 1999

November 11th, 2011
9:47 am

Seems like a very easy answer.

GUNGA DIN

November 11th, 2011
9:48 am

just because the bigger ships are possible does not mean that the current ones will disappear. let one of the other ports spend themselves into bankruptcy while Savannah takes care of the smaller ships that will still exist.

zeke

November 11th, 2011
9:52 am

Stupid! SC and GA are working together to build a new gigantic port in Jasper County SC closer to the Atlantic, not requiring the dredging of 35 miles or more of the Savannah River! The $600 million or more would go a long way to funding the construction of that new joint port facility.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

November 11th, 2011
10:03 am

“How would one identify in advance which companies would benefit?”
——-

Don’t need to. Privatize the port. The company that runs the port pays to dredge it and recovers the cost by charging a fee to use it.

spaceman109

November 11th, 2011
10:06 am

sean smith….your idea of a container fee is a worthy one. one problem: the reeee-publi-kans would call it a back-door tax and rail against it with all their might.after all, we mustn’t hassle bidnesses with nasty ol’ user fees. :D i seem to recall that user fees became very popular during the years of president reagan (the great presdient whose soul is resting in peace.

spaceman109

November 11th, 2011
10:07 am

i meant (the great president whose soul is resting in peace. ) pardon my finger cramp! B-)

rwcole

November 11th, 2011
10:13 am

I think Governor Deal will put it on the state’s credit card and let someone else figure out how to pay for it. That’s the Republican way.

rwcole

November 11th, 2011
10:15 am

I’m also pretty sure Gov. Deal stands to make millions from this shady shady deal.