Attorneys for the Savannah Riverkeeper, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Georgia Ports Authority filed motions late last week asking U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel to rule.
Environmentalists have sued, saying the corps needs a South Carolina pollution permit for the $650 million project because toxic cadmium will be dredged from the river and deposited in a spoils area on the South Carolina side of the river.
The Georgia Ports Authority wants the harbor channel deepened so the ports can handle larger container ships that will routinely be calling when the Panama Canal is expanded in 2014. The chief executive of the Panama Canal Authority speaks Tuesday at a trade conference on the Isle of Palms, S.C.
The lawsuit was brought by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the Savannah Riverkeeper, based in Augusta as well as the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League and the South Carolina Wildlife Federation.
Attorneys for the Savannah Riverkeeper argue it is clear pollutants will be discharged into South Carolina and a permit is needed. It says Congress has directed to corps to comply with state pollution laws in such projects.
“The Corps seeks not to be a faithful steward of the environment in its position as implementer of this public works project, but instead seeks to ignore and avoid South Carolina’s sovereign right to protect the integrity of the state’s environment, ecosystem and natural resources,” their motion said.