South Carolina’s House of Representatives is trying to reverse the approval by the state’s environmental agency of a permit to allow the deepening of the Savannah River to 48 feet by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The house voted unanimously Wednesday for a joint resolution to suspend the Department of Health and Environmental Control's ability to make dredging decisions, as of 2007. That's when legislators created the Savannah River Maritime Commission and gave it authority to represent South Carolina on navigation issues in the river shared with Georgia.
The lawmakers’ vote was a rebuke to S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley for her decision in November to ask the DHEC chairman to reverse the commission’s earlier decision to block the permit on environmental grounds. Haley had opposed the Savannah River dredging on the grounds that it would favor the Port of Savannah over Charleston, but reversed her opposition after forging a compromise in a meeting with Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal.
Haley’s decision sparked outrage and Senate hearings, as legislators said South Carolina handed Georgia the competitive advantage over Charleston's port and killed efforts to create a port in Jasper County 14 miles closer to the Atlantic than Savannah.
Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey called the vote "an unfortunate over-step of the Legislature's authority." A DHEC spokesman said the agency couldn't comment due to pending litigation.