South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley on Monday vetoed a bill both state houses passed unanimously in an attempt to overturn a permit allowing the Port of Savannah to expand at the expense of Charleston’s port.
The bill would have overturned a permit issued by state environmental regulators to allow the Army Corps of Engineers to deepen the Savannah river. The dredging project will allow the port to handle larger ships able to pass through the expanded Panama Canal in late 2014.
Legislators hope the vote will strengthen their case in court. Haley called the measure legislative overreaching into an agency's ruling.
The Republican governor has come under fire for asking the DHEC board she appointed to hear Georgia's appeal last fall, after its staff initially denied the water quality certification. Minutes before the appeal, the agency reached a settlement with the Georgia Ports Authority and Army Corps of Engineers that would require Georgia to fund further environmental mitigation.
South Carolina legislators have been vocal in their complaints that deepening the Savannah River to 48 feet from its current 42 feet will give the Georgia port it an unfair competitive advantage over Charleston.
The South Carolina port has a depth of 45 feet at mean low water and wants to deepen it to 50 feet, but won’t be able to do this until after the long process of getting permits from federal agencies, which the Army Corps said will take until 2024.