Lately, every time I look at water, something akin to terror begins to creep along my spine.

You might think my fears stem from the bigass bull shark my husband hooked a few feet from where the kids and I splashed this weekend.

It could be the time spent recently on the set of Hellyfish, a horror film starring a slobbering, pink–tentacled sea demon hopped up on Tybee Bomb juice that bears a disturbing resemblance to the round globs that beachwalkers must tiptoe around in ever–increasing numbers.

Borne from the ill minds of SCAD grads Pat Longstreth and Rob McLean, Hellyfish had its first screening Friday in its short form. The visual effects/direction duo aim to find Hollywood funding for a feature–length version, though I would be remiss if I didn’t suggest that they not be afraid to exchange their penchant for Pabst Blue Ribbon for champagnier tastes as they court big studio benefaction.

(Best wishes to Longstreth and his lady Anne Ratz, who take their leave of these waters next week for L.A., where he’s landed a job at digital effect house Psyops. Take heed, friends: Not all sharks live in the ocean.)

The real reason for my aquatic jitters comes from soaking up the final details of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, released last week with great fanfare by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The two–part document, which reportedly spans over 11 feet in paper and almost crashed my computer in PDF form, confirms that the 38–mile deepening of the shipping channel to 47 feet “is economically viable, environmentally sustainable, and in the best interests of the United States.”

Can’t deny that. Plenty of people stand to make a heavy chunk of change by moving the same amount of goods through the port at a lesser cost. Some folks might even get a job out of it (though still no hard numbers regarding potential employment statistics.) All of us citizens should be overjoyed about the heady projected 5.5 to 1 cost/benefit ratio, meaning that for every one of the $650 million spent, the country will enjoy five–and–a–half bucks in returns.

The Corps must be lauded for slating 292 million of those 650 million bones for environmental mitigation, including new marsh creation, a special traffic lane for the endangered shortnose sturgeon and the installation of massive Speece cones to oxygenate dead zones in the river.

Just so we’re all clear, the definition of “mitigate” is “to lessen the gravity of” or “to make less severe.” It does not mean solving the actual problem.

Of particular concern in the mitigation plan is the 750 million–gallon reservoir that’s to be built in anticipation of a whole lot of salty ocean in our drinking water.

According to MPC statistics, the 300,000 users of City of Savannah water drink, bathe in and flush an average between 50 and 75 gallons of water a day—which would drain that reservoir in a month. That doesn’t “lessen the gravity” quite enough for permanent damage, unless the corps has also engineered cheap desalination technology it’s keeping a secret.

Oh, and while the $30 million cost is included in the SHEP price tag, it’s city taxpayers who will be on the hook for the yearly half million dollars the reservoir will cost to maintain. That’s you and me, neighbor.

So while there’s no doubt that the dredging will be worth it to some, from this side of the river, it seems like the cost–to–benefit ratio for Savannah pretty much sucks.

It’s not a done deal yet; opposition from South Carolina lawmakers and lawsuits from conservation groups will likely delay the speedy timeline released over the weekend. And there’s still federal funding to secure.

But I’m a smart enough swimmer to know the political machine driving the SHEP ship is a far scarier monster than any CGI jellyfish.

Better stock up on the PBR. It might be all that’s left to drink around here.

Read the report at The public commenting period starts this Friday and must be submitted in writing.



Jessica Leigh Lebos

Community Editor Jessica Leigh Lebos has been writing about interesting people, vexing issues and anything involving free food for more than 20 years. She introduces herself at cocktail parties as southern by marriage.
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