SHEP environmental mitigation postponed due to permitting delay

Published Sept. 6, 2017

SAVANNAH, Ga. – A contract award for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project will be postponed approximately one year because of a delay in acquiring required permits from the South Carolina Savannah River Maritime Commission and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. 

In response to the permitting delay, the Corps of Engineers canceled an invitation for bids on an environmental mitigation construction contract for SHEP. The feature involves several modifications to tidal creeks in the upper harbor to reduce impacts of increased salinity associated with the harbor deepening. 

The solicitation was issued July 6 and cancelled Aug. 30 because the Maritime Commission did not approve changes in the construction in time for a contractor to complete work required before a spring environmental exclusion window.  SC DHEC had requested the Corps perform additional modeling to show how the proposed modifications to the river would impact dissolved oxygen levels in the estuary. The Maritime Commission did not agree to the additional modeling in time for the Corps to award the contract this fall. 

The Corps had requested a modification to the South Carolina Water Quality Certification and Construction in Navigable Waters Permit on May 23, 2017.  The modification was for changes that Corps detailed engineering analyses indicate are needed for the mitigation to perform as originally intended.  The changes include deepening an additional stretch of 2,600 feet in Middle River, and using the excavated sediment to create wetlands in McCoombs Cut and Rifle Cut.

The Corps is working with SRMC and SC DHEC to resolve the permitting issue and intends to resolicit and award the contract within the next 12 months. If the permitting issue is resolved within a year, this delay would not impact the overall SHEP completion schedule. Once the approvals are received from the State of South Carolina, the Final Environmental Assessment will be completed and the solicitation for construction of this mitigation feature will be re-issued.

The environmental mitigation in this SHEP contract is one of three parts of the flow re-routing plan. The plan will direct more freshwater into the Back River area on the South Carolina side of the estuary.  This would protect freshwater wetlands in the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge from saltwater intrusion. Freshwater marsh is determined to be the highest priority type of wetland natural resource in the Savannah River estuary.

The harbor deepening will enable larger container ships to call on Savannah with greater ease, heavier cargoes and fewer tidal restraints than they currently experience. The Corps of Engineers partnered with the State of Georgia for the deepening, which is expected to bring a net benefit of $282 million each year to U.S. consumers in transportation cost savings and greater efficiencies. Each dollar invested in the SHEP will return $7.30 to the economy.

Russell Wicke
912-856-4229 (cell)

Release no. 17-031