A Container Port at Aiken-Augusta

The following was sent to us by David of Lexington, S.C.

The Savannah River was used for navigation for many years. In 1930 and 1935 money was authorized under the Rivers and Harbors Acts for the sole purpose to build a dam and lock( new Savannah lock and dam) plus give the river a nine foot depth for navigation from Augusta,Georgia to the upper Savannah harbor. The lock,dam and river channel stopped being maintained in 1979 due to lack of use. Now, as shipping has changed, the use of the Savannah River is again needed for navigation.

In the late 1970's trucks started hauling cargo to the plants near Augusta. The trucks were faster, fuel cheaper, and the roads not crowded. Now the trucks crowd the roads and bridges, tear them up by being overweight, and fuel costs are rapidly increasing. The Highway Cost Allocation Study(HCAS) states that the cumulative value of social costs for an 80,000 lb., five-axle, combination vehicle truck is calculated to be 7.2 cents per mile for rural highways and 28.7 cents per mile for urban highways or average costs will be 45 cents per mile. One-way from Savannah to Atlanta (I-16 and I-75) route @252 miles would be $113.40 of wear. One-way from Charleston to Columbia(I-26) route @112 miles would be $50.40 of wear. The rivers are not crowded, there are no weight limits, and you can not wear them out. The State maintains the highway with their funds; the Army Corps of Engineers maintains the waterways with federal funds. Transportation infrastructure maintenance costs go up with every additional truck on the highway, but the cost of river maintenance remains constant.

The pushboats would bring containers filled with imported goods and raw materials for industry. The tugboats would push barges down with containers filled with Georgia and South Carolina manufactured products, and bulk products, such as forest, paper, textiles, scrap metal, and farm products. These savings would be passed on to consumers. The shipping costs for Georgia and South Carolina producers would be reduced, making our exports cheaper to foreign customers. Plants, mills and other companies would locate along the barge route with cheaper freight costs for their raw materials. Some existing companies and starting companies are showing interest in cheaper freight cost. One tow = one pushboat and six barges. Each barge can carry sixty containers (weighing up to 25 tons each) 60x6=360 containers per tow. That is 360 trucks and if you have six tows a day that will be 2,160 trucks a day off the roadway and out of downtown Savannah. That would be 788,400 a year, saving an average cost to the Georgia DOT of $89,404,560 dollars a year in road maintenance. Then if you have 2,160 trucks a day off the roadway and out of downtown Charleston, that would be 788,400 a year, saving an average cost to the South Carolina DOT of $39,735,360 dollars a year in road maintenance .

The economy is slowing down and leading economists say they don't know when or if we will ever recover. In the 1980's over 60% of our products were made in factories of the USA. Now less than 10% of our factories are in the United States. Almost every thing we buy is imported. When we run out of credit and our money becomes worthless we will need factories to put the people back to work. We will build them along the river as it was done in the old days, when we made all of our products at home. Water transportation is 90% cheaper than trucks and 50% cheaper than by rail. The savings to the consumers of Georgia and South Carolina a year @ $200.00 a container would be a savings of over $315 million dollars. That is not even counting what our companies could save on exporting. We can make it even greener by using bio-fuel.

We need everyone's help in carrying this out. The Army Corps of Engineers public information officer in Savannah,Billy Birdwell, said that the dredging faces the chicken-or-egg dilemma. The Corps can't dredge the river unless there's enough commercial traffic . The river can't be use unless it is dredged. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers(COE) now maintains 12,000 miles of inland waterways and operates 235 locks. These waterways carry about 1/6 of the Nation's inter-city freight at a cost per ton-mile about 50% less than rail and 90% less than truck. The waterways move about 630 million tons of cargo valued at over $73 billion annually. This cargo is moved at an average transport savings of about $11.00 a ton. The COE will spend $2,471,000,000 on Operation and Maintenance of these inland waterways in their 2008 budget. This proves that the inland waterway is cost effective. It is important to remember that while traffic demands are significant consideration in benefit estimation, economic evaluations are not based upon demand forecasts alone. Corps projects are evaluated in terms of their National Economic Development (NED) benefits. Specifically, the question is asked whether the benefits provided by a project are greater than the cost of constructing and maintaining the project. If so, then the corps recommends construction. Only the Congress and the President have the authority to approve and fund the project.

The only way the river can be opened back up is for the thousands of businesses that depend on importing and exporting of containers, the shippers,freight forwarders and the consumers need to press the the two States Legislative delegations with the help from the companies that are willing to invest millions of dollars to open an inland port at Aiken-Augusta. Which is about 120 miles into the interior of the two States. The delegations already help all the other States get about 2.5 billion dollars to maintain their rivers each year. The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Association lobbied the Legislative delegations and received millions of dollars to dredge the intracoastal waterway. This has not been used for commercial use in the last 20 years. Many businesses have shown interest in opening the Savannah river back up for navigation.

The following response was sent to us from Benjamin of Yonges Island, S.C.

In the last part of the article there was a statement that the AIW hasn't had any commercial traffic for 20 years. I would like to let you know that we are a tugboat company that is using the AIW on a regular basis. We move commodities such as steel, pig iron, woodchips, lime and scrap up and down the waterway. We also move construction barges and cranes; super heavy cargoes such as transformers and generators for power plants; cargoes too large to move by road or rail such as chemical process tanks; military equipment moving to and from US Navy bases or shipyards; prestress beams for bridge construction. Dredges have to be moved from port to port via the waterway as they are generally not capable of being towed in the ocean. There are other companies that rely on the waterway in every port from Miami through the Chesapeake Bay moving everything from jet fuel to yachts.

It is a vital resource for the country and needs to be maintained- the cost of not having the waterway viable will be felt in ways that the federal government is not considering in their cost benefit analysis. I would hope that you would look at doing an in depth story on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway when you have an opportunity and we can show you all the aspects of this marine highway.

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