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Potential of third deepwater port in Georgia still unlikely
The head of the Georgia Ports Authority is indicating that there is no immediate plan to create a third deepwater port on the state's coast.

But Curtis Foltz, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority, is not saying there never will be either.

The idea of a third state port - this one at the abandoned 720-acre Gilman Paper Co. site in St. Marys - surfaced during a meeting last week of coastal legislators.

"We have met with officials from the area and discussed the various characteristics of the (Gilman) site and any potential implications for future use," Foltz said.

"We have not had significant discussions with our board regarding any potential acquisition of the referenced property and/or applicable due diligence type studies to assess port value to the state."

The property, now available after the company that purchased it for development declared bankruptcy, is on the St. Marys River and some 3 miles upstream from a shipping channel maintained at 48 feet by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The channel provides the path for submarines coming in and out of U.S. Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay on the Georgia side and for cargo ships calling on the Port of Fernandina on the Florida side.

Glynn County leaders, including a state legislator, say a port in Camden County is not a good idea right now since the state and federal government are having a tough enough time just maintaining existing ports.

There's also the 100-plus miles of Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, which can be hazardous in some areas to larger craft at low tide because of sandbars, to consider, says Rep. Alex Atwood, R-St. Simons Island.

"It is fiscally unwise for the state to get into another harbor dredging and maintenance project when we can't maintain what we have right now," Atwood said.

"The current nature of our state resources, coupled with complicated and often expensive environmental issues associated with such a project, makes it, in my opinion, highly unlikely of moving forward."

The Port of Brunswick is in need of additional funding to keep the depth of main channels at 36 feet and the Port of Savannah is seeking $600 million to deepen its channel by 6 feet for a total depth of 48 feet.

Nathan Sparks, executive director of the Brunswick and Glynn County Development Authority, shares Atwood's sentiments.

"While we certainly support efforts to provide additional infrastructure and attention to this part of the state, in light of the challenges that GPA is having in securing federal funding for harbor maintenance in Brunswick, we would prefer that any state resources be directed here first," Sparks said.

The Georgia Ports Authority also operates two inland ports on the Chattahoochee River at Columbus and Bainbridge.

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