Leadership, Partisanship and Container Ships.

The Port of Savannah should matter to all Georgians, not the least of whom are the the 250,000 of us without jobs. 7% of all of Georgia’s economic activity, and $8 billion worth of goods that came to or was shipped from Atlanta went through either Savannah or Brunswick. 1/4 of Home Depot’s containerized imports arrive in Georgia at Savannah’s port. Georgia Ports Authority employs 1,000 people directly, but also accounts for more than 286,476 jobs statewide, $55.8 billion of dollars in revenue, nearly $15 billion in income. As other states invest millions in their port facilities up to date, a significant part of Georgia’s economic future rests on the leadership and salesmanship of two men: Georgia Governor Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.

The port of Savannah needs about 6 feet of sand and mud dredged off the bottom of roughly 30 miles of the Savannah River to accommodate newer, bigger container ships. A few of the new ships have docked, but need to wait for high tide to load or offload. The dredging project will cost about $600 million, with the federal government paying about 2/3 of the cost.

Deal’s experience as a Congressman and his ties with Republicans in the House of Representatives are undoubtedly helpful. He’s already bumped up the amount under discussion from a mere $600,000 to $70 million. Reed’s ties to the Obama administration have put him in a leadership position on the issue as well, and as part of the larger issue of getting Georgia’s economy going, Savannah’s port dredging project is more important than partisan politics. But don’t ever count politics out of any equation.

There has been speculation that Georgia may be “in play” in the presidential election -notably by my colleague and fellow front page poster Mark Rountree. And even if the voters aren’t in play, Democratic donors certainly are. The math is pretty simple: Georgia needs jobs and Savannah’s port dredging project will help bring us some. President Obama desperately needs some good economic news from somewhere -anywhere- in the US. So do voters. Whether he wants Georgians’ votes or donations, President Obama is going to have pony up a few more federal dollars if he wants to keep Georgia in play.


      • SOGTP says:

        So we’re now supposed to believe that you’re the expert Charlie?

        Really? If private enterprise sees no economic benefit by investing in the deepening, then why would the federal government using taxpayers dollars be more beneficial?

          • SOGTP says:

            My point … you can’t find anything in the Constitution that says; Clause 19 ‘Congress shall provide money to dig ports deeper so larger container vessels may gain access, thereby creating jobs all across the southern states.’

            • Charlie says:

              And I can’t find anything in the Bible that says purchasing a Hustler magazine is wrong, either. Come to think of it, Larry Flynt isn’t mentioned in the whole book…

                • Doug Grammer says:

                  I’m going to have to say that Charlie, Grift, Mike, TheEiger, and Calypso are 100% correct about the appropriateness of the use of federal dollars on a port.

                  Freeman and Bill, please read this again: Article 1, Sec 8 “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.”

                  Now sit and think about the uses of a port for at least 30 minutes before you post again.

                  • SOGTP says:

                    You’re wrong … just wrong. Regulate commerce simply means to impose duties or not, tax, regulate. It has nothing to do with dredging, welding, sinking pylons, and laying plank.

                    Use state funds. Hold back money we send to Washington DC and get the job done.

                    • Doug Grammer says:

                      If you think that “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.”

                      only means impose duties, why does the constitution repeat the same powers with:

                      ” The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;”

                      Are there any other expressed powers of congress repeated in Art. 1, Section 8? No? If not then, I guess these selections would have different meanings.

                    • I’m not going to agree or disagree here that federal dollars should be used in deepening the port… I can see the pro and con, though I would prefer that it was private dollars paying for the deepening. However, examining this quote…

                      “to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States”

                      If deepening a port is considered “general welfare” then so is health care, is it not?

                  • Freeman says:

                    Read the ratification debates and then tell me if you believe the Virginia ratifiers believed the federal government had the power to tax Virginians to pay for deepening a port in Georgia? It matters not what 200 plus years of twisted court decisions claim the Constitition means. The Constitution means exactly what the ratifiers believed and said it meant. Nothing more. Anything else is a twisting of original intent.

                    • Doug Grammer says:

                      No thank you. I may get around to reading the ratification debates one day, but not for the purpose of this thread.

                      See my reply to Bill. I can read the constitution. Explain to us why your limited interpretation of one clause is repeated.

      • KD_fiscal conservative says:

        “You are absolutely clueless when it comes to the Constitution and ports.”
        …and economics

    • griftdrift says:

      I just happen to have my pocket Constitution handy!

      Article 1, Sec 8

      “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes”

      Article 1, Sec 9

      “No Preference shall be given by any Regulation of Commerce or Revenue to the Ports of one State over those of another:”

      • Seems like Article 1, Sec 9 should pretty much end the debate then, does it not? Either we fund the deepening of Georgia’s port (along with every other port out there) or we don’t fund any of them?

        • drjay says:

          i suppose that argument could be made, except that not every port needs deepening, not every port wants deepening, and not every port has the facilities in place to handle the ships in question once they are docked…

            • drjay says:

              to some extent yes, but it is a little more complicated than that, i am pretty sure ny and baltimore are already at the new panamax depth and miami has a project underway (frankly miami also has a shorter channel and is the closest port to the canal which make it a very desirable port), but other than miami i am not sure that charleston, jax or tampa have the infrastructure advantages that sav’h has that would make it a go from day one without improvements needing to be made on the shore…so if the miami project is completed and her port is running at capacity, sav’h is probably the next best option for panamax cargo…

              • But if we’re talking about convenience, wouldn’t it be faster to use LA or San Diego instead of going all the way through the Panama Canal and turning North? What am I missing here?

                • drjay says:

                  yeah, it might depending on what it is and where it’s going-as far getting things off the ground, the main advantage i see in miami is a two to three mile channel to dredge and maintain vs the 18 mile trip upriver to get to the port of sav’h–of course even with that i think sav’h is a superior port even to miami in many ways…

    • TheEiger says:

      Bill – this is what makes conservatives and tea party folks so frustrated. When you have someone such as yourself that is totally clueless about the Constitution yet try to make everyone believe you know it better than anyone.

      • SOGTP says:

        Sorry. You’re just wrong.

        To tax the people of Pennsylvania and Iowa to deepen a port in Savannah to create jobs in Georgia is not constitutional. It is exactly why James Madison vetoed the Bonus Bill in 1817.

        The Founders did recognize that improving our ports and highways was essential for economic development, but they believed that states or private companies should do the work. As Madison stated; “neither good government nor just results occurred when the people in Georgia could be taxed to build a canal in New York.”

        As I said, let Georgia pay for it. With hold the funds from the money we send to Washington DC. Use that money to pay for it.

        TheEiger. I will debate you on the Constitution any time you want.

        • TheEiger says:

          It’s funny how your article reads exactly like a Jay Bookman article from last year on the port, but I digress. The port of Savannah does not only create jobs in Georgia, but all across the South.

          Article 1, Section 8 allows the federal government to regulate commerce with foreign governments. This means that they are allowed to spend federal dollars on the port because it is vital to both interstate commerce and commerce with foreign nations.

          You incorrectly site Madison’s rejection of the Bonus Bill of 1817 because the canal was in no way vital to foreign commerce like the Port of Savannah currently is.

          • SOGTP says:

            My point TheEiger … why would the people of Washington state or Montana feel it necessary to pay taxes to create jobs in the South?

            Regulating Commerce is NOT making a port accessible to larger ships. Regulating commerce is setting tariffs and import duties, not diffing a port deeper.

            If it is the intention to birth Nimitz Class carriers in the Port of Savannah, then it’s Constitutional to use taxpayers money from around the nation.

            Again … I repeat … hold back money regularly sent to Washington DC and returned to us at $.40cents on the dollar after laundering in Washington District of Corruption.

            • Charlie says:

              In addition to your ignorance of the constitution, you’re also fairly ignorant of the operation of the port, who uses it, and where the products shipped to and from the port originate and end up.

              But please, keep digging. I’ll bring you a new shovel if needed.

              • SOGTP says:

                You throw around the word ignorant alot. Did you ever think maybe you are wrong? Maybe you are the one that is ignorant. Nahhhhhh can’t be right?

            • TheEiger says:

              I understand your point Bill and it is flat out wrong as usual. You do realize that Washington state, Montana and Georgia are all apart of the USA right? They are not each sovereign nations as you would like them to be. How do you think states that do not have a major port get access to imported goods?? Through states that do have ports. Such as Georgia.

              Also, are you going to tell all the chicken farmers up your way in Forsyth and Hall counties that they are no longer able to sale chicken feet to China anymore because the port isn’t big enough for the ships to come into Savannah. If you would do a little research and get off of your homemade ivory tower you would realize that
              1) the Chinese love Chicken feet and North Georgia has a lot of chickens
              2) you are sadly mistaken about the majority of the Constitution
              3) just because you say you’re right doesn’t make it so. I’m reminded of a quote by Ronald Reagan that fits perfectly with you. “It’s not that our liberal (strike liberal and insert wannabe Constitutionalist) are ignorant, it’s that they know so much that just isn’t so!”

              • Calypso says:

                @ TheEiger–you said, “How do you think states that do not have a major port get access to imported goods?? Through states that do have ports. Such as Georgia.”

                Perhaps instead of the folks in Montana chipping in some tax money (as SOGTP is adverse to them doing), we in Georgia can just charge a hefty tariff to those states for those goods coming through our ports but are delivered out of state.

                I hope they have a lot of automobile and clothing factories in Montana.


                • SOGTP says:

                  Eiger, Calypso, and Charlie you miss the very point you’re trying to make.

                  I think deepening the port is a valid project. But, it is not constitutional to use federal dollars. All three of you are just wrong … you are just wrong. It would take an entire semester of Constitutional Law to convince you and I am not interested in doing that. So be it!

                  I think deepening the port would create jobs directly and increased exports to China of Pecans and Peanuts would help farmers.

                  Pay for it by with holding money we send to Washington DC. We send hundreds of millions maybe even billions to Washington DC. That money is laundered through the federal bureaucracy and a pittance is returned to Georgia at pennies on the dollar.

                  If it would cost $650M to deepen the report, you would need to send $1.04B to Washington to get this money back. Just keep the $650M from the money we send to Washington.

                  And … btw … Eiger we are all individual sovereign states. That is why we have the 10th Amendment. Any federal whatever that is not constitutional is left to the states or the people. If we weren’t sovereign, then why is the 9th and 10th Amendment the law of the land?

                  • TheEiger says:

                    I guess you and Obama took the same Constitutional Law classes together because you both claim to be experts on it. And what money should the state withhold from the Feds and how? When does the state of Georgia write a check to the federal government? Once again, you are clueless to everything dealing with how the government works. Step out of your little mystery world and back into the real world.

                    And another thing. I know how you hate everyone that isn’t a Georgian, but you are wrong in the fact that the states are completely sovereign. We are all apart of a higher government. I’m all for the 10th amendment, but you act like we are all separate individual powers. That is flat out false. That would be equal to what we had under The Articles of Confederation and that didn’t work out that great for us.

                    • Freeman says:

                      Amazed at the lack of understanding regarding the Constitution. SOGTP is absolutely correct. The Constitution means exactly what the men who ratified believed it meant. Nothing more. Does anyone actually believe the men who ratified the Constitution actually believe they thought regulate commerce with foreign nations meant spend federal money to deepen a port in one state at the expense of others? SOGTP is also correct in that the word state in the 1700’s meant the same as country. These United States are a federal union of states not one nation. John Taylor of Caroline makes this clear in his book “New Views on the Constitution of the United States”.

                  • Todd Rehm says:

                    It would be interesting to take a semester of what you think is Constitutional law, but I can assure you that if you wrote what you believe on the ConLaw exam in any accredited law school, you would fail the class miserably.

            • Todd Rehm says:


              Having spent a good part of my childhood at Newport News, I can assure you that Nimitz-class carriers are hatched, not birthed.

  1. This is a very important post. We need jobs and we need to talk about jobs. You see Gov. Deal working across the aisle on this and other issues. He’s right and if the Feds don’t give us what we need we need to find a way to do it in the state. Next to water in North Georgia, this is the most important economic and growth issue. With Auto Manufacturing growing in the west Georgia, we need the Port of Savannah improved and expanded. We need a One Georgia (not in the way former Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor used it) policy that develops this great state and the Port of Savannah is part of that.

    • SOGTP says:

      Water in Georgia. Federal judges do NOT care about states rights unless the state stands up for themselves. As of last Thursday in Bond v. USA the Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that individuals and states have the right to file suit against the federal government using the 9th and 10th Amendments.

      The State of Georgia should schedule a press conference and shred Judge Magnusens (sp?) decision on water in Lanier.

      Georgia will make their own determination whether that water is used for the people or some mussel or shrimp destined to go extinct in Appalachicola Bay.

    • Dave Bearse says:

      Containized auto parts may be imported or exported via Savannah, but automobile imports and exports are handled through Brunswick, not Savannah.

    • Cassandra says:

      I agree, Martha, this post is both timely and paramount. Good write-up, Mike.

      First, capitalize on the value of virtually irreplaceable and existing rail rights of way that terminate at the former GM plant in Doraville..

      Here’s why: The fact that the volume of freight shipped through US East Coast cities is expected to grow substantially as a result of the expansion to the Panama Canal. Each Eastern US state, with a port city, is eagerly competing to capitalize on this trend.

      Currently, discussions to build a new, and predictably unpopular interstate, I-3, between Savannah and Knoxville are underway. Though US public policy favors interstates, imagine how progressive DeKalb County (and it’s CEO!) would be portrayed in trying to invigorate passenger rail/freight transfer along the same route.

      Freight rail is far more efficient than diesel based interstate trucking. Embracing new, efficient passenger/freight rail would increase DeKalb’s status as a top tier US “Greenest County” Plus, can you envision a constant tax revenue stream as travelers spend money in DeKalb taking the train to Savannah? From the former GM plant…

      “DeKalb County: Your Host to the Coast.”

      Make it so, CEO Ellis, Mayor Reed, and Governor Deal!

      • Dave Bearse says:

        NS and CSXT already have comprehensive intermodal facility plans in place for Georgia. NS’ Austell facility, and CSXT’s Fariburn facility, each have room for a couple of decades of freight traffic growth. The GM plant site layout isn’t conducive for a freight facility.

        With MARTA heavy rail already at the GM plant site, new T-SPLOST light rail from Doraville to the Gwinnett Civic Center, and along I-285 to Cumberland connecting to Midtown-Town Center light rail, a portion of the GM site might make a good location for an Amtrak station though.

        • Cassandra says:

          I understand that AMTRAK will not be connected at the proposed Cousins downtown ATL ‘Gulch” project. Seems that AMTRAK would want to abandon it’s absurd little midtown station in lieu of a transportation hub with MARTA at the GM plant.

          My question is how hard would it be for AMTRAK to go from ATL at GM to Savannah? To me that would facilitate North/South Crescent travel.

          • Dave Bearse says:


            There’s congestion in the rail freight network in in-town Atlanta, so travel time through the city either wouldn’t be good or would be costly to reduce. (I think the T-SPLOST includes funding to develop, not build, in-town freight network capacity.) Every 5-10 minutes counts.

            From downtown, use NS the line through East Point to Griffin. A station at Grant Parkway (formerly Aviation Blvd) would offer access to HJIA at the international terminal end. Next stop Griffin. This presumes the new intercity passenger service is conventional US high / higher speed rail, and where the improvements would do double duty for Griffin commuter rail service (which would have at least four other intermediate stops—Morrow, Jonesboro, Lovejoy and Hampton between Grant Parkway and Griffin, and commuter service would have an intermediate station at East Point north of the Grant Parkway station.)

            South of Griffin, if I were calling the shots, would be on new true high speed alignment to Fosyth-Bolingbroke then to the NS line along the Ocmulgee to Macon. (The new alignment and connection to the Ocmulgee line shaves ~15 miles and 25 minutes travel time compared to continuing down the Griffin line to Barnesville before turning east to Macon.)

            From Macon, use short line Georgia Central Railway (not the form Central of Georgia Railway), a former CSXT line, through Dublin to Savannah. (Dublin would be a candidate for an intermediate stop, but would require ridership studies, as would perhaps a Forsyth or Bolingbroke station.) The Georgia Central alignment is decent and the freight train traffic low, so infrastructure improvement money would be used to build speed, not line capacity (generally the case on the Jonesboro-Griffin part of the route.

            You’re talking on the order of $1B and change, and that only gets you travel time that would be little better than driving, baring highway congestion (increasingly a problem). I live less than 2 miles from the GM plant site and routinely make an interstate Atlanta-Savannah trip in about 3.5 hours.

            • Cassandra says:

              Thank you, obviously not a very strong economic justification. Very kind of you to share your transportation knowledge here.

              That 3.5 hour ride is awfully boring, wouldn’t it be lovely to zip along I-16 commenting on PP with high speed Wi-Fi, enjoying a beverage? Seems from your analysis a driver would be less costly than public rail.

  2. benevolus says:

    Mark this day- a Hassinger post that’s not written like a fourth grader!
    Kudos and I concur.

  3. Scott65 says:

    Its about time that our elected officials put the people they represent ahead of “pure ideology” (something that has been lacking in our state and our country). Nice to see Gov Deal and Mayor Reed working together to get it done!

  4. When I hear about deadbeats getting free cell phones at my expense, I get mad. When I hear about the fact that “we just discovered an unknown provision in Obamacare is going to fund the health insurance of millions of middle class citizens (couples making $64,000),” I get angry. When I hear about rarely used airports in rural Pennsylvania getting $200 million dollars from an old school pork barreler like John Murtha, I get pissed. However, I will gladly give my blessings for the government to use my hard earned money on a project like the deepening of the Savannah Ports, especially when it returns so many billions more in revenue to this state.

    There is a saying about throwing “good money after bad” and we have watched our federal government do it to the tune of trillions over the years. However, every once in a while there is consensus that a project would be such a good investment and economic engine, we would be fools not to support it. The deepening of the Savannah Ports is one of those.

  5. Mike Stucka says:

    High tide to get to the docking place, not to actually load and unload, per the story.

  6. I’m a strong believer in lowest-common denominator government. Major ports that serve multiple states directly rise above state-level government’s ability and interests. This is clearly a federal-level project.

    A port unable to do the necessary job is a barrier to needed competition and hurts both business and consumers. There is not a lot I believe the federal government should do, but this is one of those things.

  7. drjay says:

    this may be a not entirely correct–but i was of the undertstanding that navigable interstate waters were under the conrtol of the corps of engineers anyway–i don’t think ga could go in and start deepening the channel of it’s own acord any more than missouri could decide to start building new levees and damns along the mississippi of it’s own accord…

  8. gcp says:

    To all of you supporters of this project, you are why we have a 1.5 trillion dollar deficit. If the state wants it let the state or the users pay for it.

  9. saltycracker says:


    Just curious – Agreed, the port is an economic engine. You favor dredging by withholding money GA sends to the Feds – walk me thru that one, slowly – won’t they come looking for the money ?
    Doesn’t seem like a realistic solution.

    Why wouldn’t the GA TP favor all the Fed $$ or tax breaks available unless there is a financial darkside for GA (like high speed rail) ? Aren’t they after fiscally sound more than what is fair for the world (don’t think this is a good example driving the national deficit) ?

Comments are closed.