Saturday, January 29, 2022
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City Ink: Will politicians fight for Savannah River?

Elected officials have been talking for years about building a pedestrian bridge between Augusta and North Augusta, but nobody ever thought it could turn out to be a mud bridge. So if the federal, state and local elected officials in Georgia and South Carolina can’t manage to get another 3 to 5 feet of water in the pool and save folks in Augusta and North Augusta from having to gaze out across dried-up mudflats, what good are they? Yes, past officials knew the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam was going to be deauthorized, torn down and a way made for sturgeon to get upstream to spawn, which they’ve had a hard time doing since the lock and dam was built in 1938. A 300 percent raise is not going to happen, according to some Augusta-area lawmakers. The BOE is Overdue: Meanwhile, Augusta commissioners and Richmond County Board of Education members have petitioned the local legislative delegation to increase their pay, and lawmakers seem more inclined to grant the board’s request than the commissioners’. They had not gotten a raise in years.” The last school board raise went into effect Jan. 1, 2000, member Helen Minchew said. Regular members currently make $6,800 a year, the vice president $7,400, and the president $8,000. They have asked for board members’ annual pay to increase to $10,000, the vice president’s to $11,000 and the president’s to $12,000. A Lying Philosophy: Augusta commissioners recently set fees for treating and transporting patients in fire department ambulances and approved a billing system. Some commissioners even argued for just accepting what the patients’ insurance paid and not bill for charges above that – non-balanced billing.

SC, federal politicians get behind Charleston ports agency’s barge idea

With continued growth on the way at the Port of Charleston, a proposal to move more cargo with fewer trucks is getting the thumbs-up from state and federal legislators even as its implementation could be years down the road. The State Ports Authority last week took its plan to use barges to haul cargo containers at Wando Welch Terminal in Mount Pleasant to state lawmakers, who are asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to grant a permit allowing the project to move forward. The authority says its barge proposal would eliminate about 200,000 truck trips — and their resulting emissions — annually by moving containers from the terminal on a roughly 3-mile trip along the Wando and Cooper rivers to a new terminal being built on the former Navy base in North Charleston. From there, they would be moved on a private road to a nearby rail yard planned by Palmetto Railways, a division of the state Commerce Department. It also would save $27.4 million in road and bridge maintenance costs over 30 years and improve the quality of life for residents living near Wando Welch. The terminal’s 3,800-foot wharf would have to be extended by 700 feet so barges could operate continuously and cargo could be loaded from more than one ship at a time, all of which requires Army Corps approval and a permit from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. Melvin said the review process could last several months before a decision is made. The mayor of the town whose residents feel the brunt of traffic congestion at Wando Welch said he wants to see the barge plan succeed. “By operating and managing an inner harbor barge system, (the authority) can significantly reduce the length and number of truck trips on local roads, which will ease congestion, emissions, and create a more efficient transfer of cargo.” Similar letters of support have been sent to the Army Corps by state Sen. Larry Grooms, a Charleston County Republican who heads the state’s ports oversight commission, Ted Pitts of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce and others. During last week’s roads and bridges committee meeting, state Rep. Leon Stavrinakis recommended Charleston County’s legislative delegation formally support the barge plan.

Politics not policy: Pebble on Walker opposition

It's one of the most controversial mining projects in the United States, and it's sparked heated debate among Alaskans for more than a decade. Bill Walker urged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to suspend a key environmental impact study of the proposed Pebble Mine in the Bristol Bay watershed, home to the world's largest wild salmon fishery. "I think that the governor's action has a lot more to do with politics than policy," Mike Heatwole, a spokesperson for Pebble Limited Partnership said Sunday. "Because all of the questions, the high bar that the governor has put out there, are exactly the type of issues that should be resolved and looked at and evaluated through the regulatory process." of Natural Resources, Andy Mack, said there's only one way the Walker administration would support the project. But Heatwole says zero impact isn't possible. Heatwole says Pebble has invested over $150 million in environmental studies of the area. As for the financials on the proposed mine, Heatwole said he couldn't address why a potential investor, First Quantum Minerals, backed away from the project in May. "I can't speak to why they backed away, I think that's probably best answered by them," Heatwole said. "Pebble is on state of Alaska land open to mineral development.