Scroll to the bottom to read some of the state DNR emails
South Carolina House Republicans and Democrats alike blasted Gov. Nikki Haley on Tuesday for vetoing their resolution expressing displeasure with a state agency’s move to clear the way for the deepening of Georgia’s Port of Savannah.
The House overrode Haley’s veto of that resolution by a 111-to-1 vote.
“This is a political ploy,” state Rep. Jim Merrill, R-Berkeley, said of Haley’s veto. “Once again, (Haley) is working more on behalf of Georgia, when it comes to this permit and this issue, than she is on South Carolina.”
At issue is a water-quality permit for the Savannah port that was issued by the Haley-appointed board of the state Department of Health and Environmental Control. Lawmakers have charged the permit, which helps clear the way for deepening the Georgia port, hurts South Carolina, where the port of Charleston also needs to be deepened.
Earlier this month, both the House and the Senate unanimously passed a resolution disavowing DHEC’s permitting decision and claiming the board lacked the authority to issue the permit.
Haley has defended the DHEC board’s decision. In her veto message, she said the Legislature is overstepping its authority by trying to influence the issue.
Only one House member, state Rep. Ralph Norman, R-York, voted to uphold Haley’s veto of that resolution.
The vote came on the same day that documents were released showing sharp differences between the state’s two environmental agencies over the Savannah harbor-dredging proposal.
Internal records show the S.C. Department of Natural Resources still thinks the more than $600 million project threatens fish and wildlife and plans to offset the environmental impact were poorly drawn.
Because DHEC never asked Natural Resources for its opinion on a compromise that allowed the dredging, water quality and wildlife will suffer, according to records released through the office of state Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg.
“DNR was not consulted relative to the last minute negotiations, nor was DNR asked to play any role in crafting or reviewing the final agency decision,’’ read a Dec. 9 email from Bob Perry, a DNR permitting official. “We believe the document is severely flawed and does not protect water quality or other natural resources.’’
A key concern is the use of equipment to inject oxygen into the Savannah River, an attempt to offset the effect of dredging on water quality. The system “will not work and it will be doomed to failure at the peril of aquatic resources,’’ a Dec. 5 email from Perry to a state Senate staff member said.
The records also show Natural Resources was adamant in opposing a DHEC plan to smooth over differences between the state agencies after the Nov. 10 Savannah port deal was announced.
“We will not alter our position to provide cover for their board and staff decisions,’’ Natural Resources director John Frampton wrote in an internal email dated Nov. 18.
Some of the documents showing the state DNR's opposition to the port dredging project.