We've spent our share of time at Connect Savannah bashing the City of Savannah government and its elected officials, but it's important to give credit where credit's due.
The City of Savannah, due to the efforts of its staff and its much-maligned politicians, has racked up a very impressive track record of environmentally sound, sustainable accomplishments, a record that's even more remarkable when you consider the very small size of the market as a whole.
We celebrate those accomplishments in this issue with our special Earth Day guide, designed with this Saturday's big celebration in Forsyth Park in mind.
But as good as so many other things are on the local green front, I'm sorry to report that one huge, overriding issue threatens to make a mockery of it all.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently issued its final approval -- which also effectively signals the approval of the entire federal regulatory process -- of a deepening of the Savannah River channel to an average depth of 47 feet.
While the City of Savannah is scrabbling together a few hundred thousand here and there for green initiatives, the U.S. federal government and the state government of Georgia are set to pour nearly a billion dollars into this massive -- and massively environmentally irresponsible -- project.
So environmentally irresponsible, in fact, that a large portion of that billion dollars will go to remediate the negative environmental effects which the Corps of Engineers says will happen.
Not possible effects -- definite effects which about 15 years of advanced study tells us will happen, for sure. (For more, read Jessica Leigh Lebos' column.)
What effects? For starters, increased salination of the river leading to destruction of wetlands and destruction of drinking water.
Here's the real kicker. The tax burden isn't just federal and state. Your City water bill -- which if it's like mine is already pretty darn steep on the sewer side -- will go up to cover the cost of relocating and reconfiguring our entire surfacewater supply.
Yup -- part of Savannah's water supply is so threatened by the deepening it has to be moved! Think about it.
That, my friends, is the very definition of irresponsible, yet virtually one hundred percent of local politicians of both parties, all movers and shakers in local business, and most everyone in the local media (some of whom seem specifically hired in order to not fully inform the public about the project) are telling you it's the right thing to do.
This isn't even taking into account the nightmarish scenario of a possible breach of the Floridan Aquifer, which supplies the entire region with clean fresh groundwater.
And this isn't taking into account the likely increase in riverbank erosion.
And it isn't taking into account the possible degradation of Tybee's beach, already almost completely dependent on expensive renourishment projects.
All for what?
Let's break down who will benefit from the harbor deepening:
• Georgia Ports Authority executives and staff
• Multinational shipping firms (can cut costs by transitioning fleets to larger ships)
• Multinational corporations (Home Depot, Target, Kia)
• Corps of Engineers (performs dredging, project assures more funding)
Notice anything funny about that list? Yup, many of the players who benefit from the deepening don't live here and thus don't have to deal with the consequences.
Now let's break down who will not benefit from the harbor deepening:
• Anyone who uses drinking water in the Savannah area
• Local City of Savannah ratepayers
• Taxpayers all over the U.S.
• Local longshoremen (contrary to the propaganda, local dock jobs are not likely to increase after the deepening, but will likely decrease due to more efficiency)
Granted, in some places the lists overlap. For example, GPA staffers pay federal taxes. But notice something funny about that list?
Yup, it's mostly people who do live here, and will have to deal with the consequences first-hand.
In other words, it's us locals who have been sold down the river. Literally.
This, by the way, explains the full-court press of propaganda designed to influence local residents even though locals have had almost no say in the matter from day one.
Remember, we never really had a choice about harbor deepening. Both political parties are for it, from the federal level down to the city and county. We cannot influence this decision at the ballot box; that was baked in the cake long ago.
So if it's a done deal, why the years of pro-deepening propaganda inside Chatham County, in your daily newspaper and on local TV news?
Well, when you're asking people to make enormous sacrifices for very little return, you've got to innoculate and tranquilize them beforehand as best you can!
But this is globalism in action. This is what people said they wanted: More trade for the greater good.
What they didn't tell you, but what some of us warned about, is that the "greater good" very often comes at the expense of the local good.
Myself and a very few others in town have been warning about the likely bad effects of this deepening for over a decade. For the most part it's been a lonely effort, mainly because the pro-deepening propaganda effort is so much better funded.
I long ago made peace with the fact that I'm very much in the minority on this issue, and that my opposition might very well result in me getting run out of town on a rail one day.
But here's the thing: Wherever I end up going, there will be drinking water!