Coastal advocate disputes environmental, economic claims for Savannah Harbor deepening

 

While Georgia’s political leaders hail the Savannah Harbor’s deepening to accommodate larger ships, environmentalist David Kyler raises a dissenting voice.

Kyler, executive director of the St. Simons Island-based Center for a Sustainable Coast, says the $706 million project to dredge the harbor’s low-tide depth to 47 feet from 42 feet is based on “outrageous claims” that benefit pork-barrel politics.

Gov. Nathan Deal in October announced an agreement to allow the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project to begin with state funds. Deal in signing the agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Georgia Department of Transportation and the Georgia Ports Authority said the project is “vitally important for economic development and job creation not only in the Southeast, but nationally as well.”

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson also praises the expansion, as does Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who sees it boosting Atlanta as a products hub.

But Kyler in an e-mail called those claims “misleading and grossly exaggerated.” In a subsequent telephone interview, he said the project will cause severe environmental damage and questioned the Corps of Engineers’ plan to mitigate the harm. 

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