Category Archives: State Government

Watchdog organizations launched by former ED of Common Cause of Georgia

William Perry, the former executive director of Common Cause of Georgia, announced Wednesday that he’s launching two new watchdog organizations – Georgia Ethics Watchdogs and the Georgia Ethics Watchdogs Education Fund.

William Perry, former ED Common Cause of Georgia

William Perry

Perry said he’s already received a number of suggestions of where he should begin his work.

“I’ve had no shortage of suggestions on Facebook and email,” Perry said. “Everyone in Georgia feels they live in the most corrupt county in the state.”

Here’s how Perry described the organizations in a statement he released:

Perry has planned a fundraising kickoff party Sept. 28 from 7 p.m to 9 p.m. at Manuel’s Tavern.

Perry incorporated both organizations Aug. 16 as civic and social organizations, according to records filed with the Secretary of State. Perry is the registered agent for each organization.

Perry announced his forced resignation from Common Cause Georgia on Aug. 11. He was ousted as part of a realignment of the national organization under the leadership of former Clinton cabinet member Robert Reich.

The national organization intends to work on economic opportunity issues, sustainability and environmental protection. Under Perry’s guidance, the Georgia affiliate focused on watchdog efforts and public policy initiatives.

“I think it’s an opportunity that will work well for all of us,” Perry said. “Common Cause can get a new start, and I can do what I want to do with a singular focus.”

On the website of Georgia Ethics Watchdogs, Perry indicates he harbors no ill will toward Common Cause:

“I will cheer from the sideline with great enthusiasm as CCGA continues with some of the issues I worked on while there, as well as forges new territories (and no doubt excel with) in the arena of public policy.”

Perry also outlines the mission of the new organizations:

“The purpose of both is to fill a void that has long existed in Georgia, by creating a singularly focused watchdog organizations. I say that not as a criticism of my former organization, Common Cause Georgia (CCGA), or as a regret of my time as its executive director for almost 5 years. It took time and training with that organization for me to form the opinion that it is nearly impossible to be successful serving simultaneously as a watchdog and as an advocate for public policy. It’s far too difficult to have the good cop and the bad cop under the same roof.”

DeKalb County will be one area of interest because of the investigation into allegations of government corruption. Former Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers and private investigator Richard Hyde.

In a letter delivered last month to interim DeKalb CEO Lee May, Bowers and Hyde wrote: “The DeKalb County government we have found is rotten to the core. The misconduct starts at the top and has infected nearly every department we have looked at.”

Atlanta’s 2017 mayoral race is another area Perry expects to watch.

“That will be almost unavoidable, making sure that all candidates who vye for that are playing by the rules,” Perry said.

State government also is a likely subject.

“There’s always the governor,” Perry said.

 

 

Conasauga River headwaters to receive highest level of protection under Clean Water Act

Georgia has declared the headwaters of the Conasauga River, in north Georgia, as the state’s first “Outstanding National Resource Water.” The designation provides the highest level of protection available under the federal Clean Water Act.

Conasauga River, headwaters

Georgia has designated an 11-mile stretch of the headwaters of the Conasauga River as one that receives the highest level of protection under the federal Clean Water Act. Credit: Environment Georgia

The Georgia Board of Natural Resources voted Aug. 25 to designate an 11-mile stretch of the Conasauga River as a Tier 3 waterway. The board specified the following length of river as designated: “Conasauga River within the Cohutta Wilderness Area of the Chattahoochee National Forest (headwaters to Forest Service Road 17).”

The language in the Clean Water Act that describes Tier 3 seems to be black-letter law: “Except for certain temporary changes, water quality cannot be lowered in such waters.”

The board provided this additional language it the amendment approved to Water Quality Control, in state law:

Jennette Gayer, the state advocate at Environment Georgia, which has championed the designation since at least 2007, said Tuesday the language allowing for temporary changes is an important part of the designation.

The language envisions improvements to be made near the river by the U.S.D.A. Forest Service, which manages the Cohutta Wilderness Area.

The notion of “temporary changes” will enable the Forest Service to reroute trails or relocate a campground, actions that likely will have some temporary effect on water quality.

Conasauga River, map

Georgia has designated the headwaters of the Conasauga River, an 11-mile stretch that goes almost to the Tennessee border, as the state’s first “Outstanding National Resource Water.”

“The language in the code allows for … the ultimate idea that the changes will result in restoring the water to the original, or even better, condition,” Gayer said. “If you’re rerouting a trail or moving a campground, it’s because you want to protect water quality in the river.”

Lots of high-powered folks have written eloquent messages about the reasons the Conasauga’s headwaters deserve extreme protection. The non-profit U.S. PIRG Education Fund is one of them, having described the Conasauga River in a 2006 report as one of the 10 exceptional waterways in the southeast.

Here are some thoughts from those who live near the river, as expressed by the sole commissioner of Murray County, Jim Welch, and the deputy clerk, Charlene Miles, in a resolution dated July 1, 2008:

The Clean Water Act requires states to establish a three-tier anti-degradation program. Until the Conasauga River was named a Tier 3 waterway, Georgia and Mississippi were the only states that had not provided the ultimate level of protection from development and other environmental stressors.

 

Georgia’s quail recovery program wins kudos, promotes important hunting industry

Georgia’s population of Northern Bobwhite Quail has declined by 90 percent since 1966, and the state has won national recognition for a program to promote the bird’s recovery – and to stabilize the $125 million quail-hunting industry clustered around Albany.

Quail hunting

Georgia’s program to promote the Northern Bobwhite Quail has earned national recognition. The bird is at the heart of Georgia’s economically significant quail hunting industry. Credit: remingtoncountryoutfittes.com

Quail are relocated from areas where they are relatively abundant, to areas where they are scarce and the land has been prepared to support their recovery. Georgia started the program officially in 2006.

The program sounds simple enough.

But it turns out that quail are not easy to relocate, according to the National Bobwhite Technical Committee, which is an affiliate of a quail recovery program based at the University of Tennessee.

“For years quail professionals routinely believed that wild quail transplantation had little potential to provide real gains for bobwhites,” NBTC Chair and Awards Committee Chair Marc Puckett, of Virginia, said in a statement.

However, success has been recorded through a program operated along the Georgia/Florida border by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and a non-profit based in Tallahassee, Fla., Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.

The program is yielding results that could be implemented in other states to help wild birds rebound from steep declines in population – provided that a proper habitat has been created on the receiving property, according to the statement.

Here’s how Puckett described the results:

Northern Bobwhite Quail

A program in Georgia and Florida has established that Northern Bobwhite Quail can be relocated to areas where such quail are in short supply. These two birds are a male (left) and female. Credit: attractionmag.com

“Using techniques pioneered by the Albany Area Quail Project and TTRS in the late 1990s, they have developed an innovative approach that has resulted in the transplantation of 1,275 wild quail to five properties totaling over 18,700 acres in Georgia and Florida, and another 1,750 wild bobwhites to nine properties totaling over 70,000 acres in six other states.”

Georgia’s quail population has been decimated by changes in land use, including the conversion of longleaf pine forests to loblolly pine forest. Loblolly is the most commercially important tree species in the southeast, according to a report from North Carolina State University.

Longleaf pines once covered about 92 million acres across the southeast. Less than 3 percent of this forest remains, and it is being lost at a rate of 100,000 acres a year. In north Florida, the longleaf pine forest has declined by 84 percent, according to the draft version of the State Wildlife Protection Plan.

Against this backdrop, Georgia lawmakers and state officials have worked for years to promote quail populations. In addition to any desire to protect the bird population is the economic impact of wealthy hunters who visit the famed quail plantations.

Tall Timbers and Florida State University’s Center for Economic Forecasting recently released an economic impact analysis. It showed hunting properties generated almost $125 million from hunting properties. Almost 900 jobs are associated with the quail hunting properties, and these jobs generated more than $38 million in wages.

Georgia has supported a number of programs, since the mid 1990s, to promote the natural habitat of quail, according to the draft version of the State Wildlife Protection Plan:

 

Every GRTA Xpress bus route to be affected by first holistic overhaul of routes in a decade

Starting in spring 2016, every GRTA Xpress bus route will be affected by an overhaul of bus routes that’s intended to increase bus ridership.

GRTA bus runs redlight

As part of its realignment of routes in downtown Atlanta, GRTA intends to ensure that drivers follow the law and are courteous toward vehicles and pedestrians. Credit: David Pendered

GRTA intends to revise bus routes in Downtown Atlanta and add service to the Perimeter business district from Cobb and Gwinnett counties, and Cumming.

The purpose of the first major revision of bus routes in a decade is to improve reliability. The goal is to make it so that more commuters find it easier to ride a bus to and from work than to drive alone in a vehicle.

New routes in Downtown Atlanta will operate mainly along two parallel streets: Peachtree Center Avenue and Courtland Street. All routes will continue have access to MARTA rail stations, and the changes are being coordinated with employer shuttles.

Service will be eliminated to Centennial Olympic Park, and Spring Street, Marietta Street, and a portion of Forsyth Street. Incidentally, the Atlanta Streetcar serves these destinations.

GRTA acknowledges that the new alignments will disrupt some riders by eliminating routes that travel circuitous routes throughout downtown Atlanta.

However, GRTA contends the shift is worthwhile because the existing routes aren’t meeting current demand and won’t meet commuter needs over the next decade.

Here’s how GRTA’s consultant described the reason for the new North-South alignment:

GRTA has tweaked service over the past decade, realigning routes to serve job centers. The changes approved by GRTA’s board Aug. 12 are the most sweeping since service started.

The route changes are part of GRTA’s effort to address is stagnant ridership.

GRTA’s consultants figure the best way to attract new riders is to eliminate routes that result in buses routinely running 20 minutes late. Consultants determined that no one with an alternative will rely on a bus system that provides sporadic service.

“Direct Xpress will transform our service into something that is more understandable, marketable, accountable, and best positioned to meet the needs of metro Atlanta commuters and businesses,” GRTA Executive Director Chris Tomlinson said in a statement. “We are confident that these changes will lead to greater ridership and a more valuable service.”

The changes approved in service to and from the Perimeter business district couldn’t come at a better time for commuters.

Traffic congestion in the area is likely to worsen starting in summer 2016. That’s when work is to begin on the $1 billion reconstruction of the I-285/Ga. 400 intersection that’s to take more than four years to complete.

In addition, the newly adopted Xpress bus service plan includes a long-range plan to expand service as funds becomes available. GRTA says the highlights of the plan include:

 

 

Common Cause forces resignation of Georgia leader as part of national realignment of interests

The forced resignation of William Perry, former executive director of Common Cause of Georgia, speaks to the breadth of redirection of the national organization under the leadership of former Clinton cabinet member Robert Reich.

William Perry, former ED Common Cause of Georgia

William Perry

The national Common Cause organization installed in 2014 a president, Miles Rapoport, who has said he intends to work on economic opportunity issues, sustainability and environmental protection.

Reich, President Clinton’s labor secretary, recused himself from the selection process because of his previous relation with Rapoport, according to a report in nationaljournal.com. Reich took over as chairman of Common Cause’s National Governing Board in 2010.

Atlanta attorney Emmet Bondurant could not be reached for comment Tuesday morning.

Bondurant serves on the Board of Governors of the national organization, and the Board of Directors of the state organization.

Among the prominent lawyers who work at Bondurant’s law firm, Bondurant, Mixon & Elmore, are Jason Carter, a former gubernatorial candidate and state senator, in the capacity of partner; and Robert Ashe, chairman of MARTA’s Board of Directors, in the capacity of associate.

Perry’s focus on government ethics and spending did not comport with the new interests of the national organization.

Rapoport asked Perry to resign and issued the following statement Tuesday morning:

Miles Rapoport

Miles Rapoport

Perry issued the following statement Tuesday morning:

During Perry’s term in office, Perry has bluntly challenged a number of actions by leading elected officials and civic leaders overseeing major public projects. The list includes:

Falcons stadium, July 2015

Atlanta’s decision to provide up to $200 million to help pay for construction of the Falcons stadium drew strong rebuke from William Perry, who was forced out as executive director of Common Cause of Georgia by the president of the national Common Cause organization. Credit: newstadium.atlantafalcons.com

Here the full statements released by Common Cause of Georgia and Perry:

From Common Cause Georgia

Aug. 11, 2015

William Perry Leaving as Head of Common Cause Georgia 

Atlanta, GA – Common Cause Georgia’s Executive Director, William Perry, has resigned the position and will seek to pursue government watchdog work in a new organization.  The decision came as a mutual understanding between Mr. Perry and national Common Cause President Miles Rapoport, who requested Mr. Perry’s resignation, about the future of the Georgia chapter.

Rapoport said:  “William Perry has led the Georgia chapter of Common Cause for four and a half years.  He has been an effective advocate for government ethics and transparency, and I know he will continue to be so.  Common Cause, both nationally and in Georgia, has a broader policy agenda for an inclusive democracy, and new leadership will help move the chapter in these new directions.”

Perry sees this as a great opportunity to continue the work he likes most about his former job.

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to work outside the confines of public policy advocacy and fully focus on government watchdog work. Over the past four and a half years, I’ve found exposing public corruption requires a single-minded focus, and it is the work I most want to do. I deeply appreciate the work that Common Cause Georgia does, and will continue to work with them as allies on issues that concern holding our public officials accountable.”

Newly elected Common Cause Georgia Board Chair, Clint Murphy of Savannah, said:

“We appreciate William’s service to Common Cause Georgia.  We wish him well, and look forward to working with him on important issues in the future.”

Common Cause, with the assistance of the Georgia advisory board, is beginning the process of selecting a new Executive Director.

From Perry:

Aug. 11, 2015

William Perry Leaving as Head of Common Cause Georgia

Organization and Director reach mutual agreement as organization seeks new leader

Atlanta, GA – Common Cause Georgia’s Executive Director, William Perry, has resigned the position and will seek to pursue government watchdog work in a new organization.  The decision came as a mutual understanding between Mr. Perry and national Common Cause President Miles Rapoport, who requested Mr. Perry’s resignation, about the future of the Georgia chapter.

Rapoport said:  “William Perry has led the Georgia chapter of Common Cause for four and a half years.  He has been an effective advocate for government ethics and transparency, and I know he will continue to be so.  Common Cause, both nationally and in Georgia, has a broader policy agenda for an inclusive democracy, and new leadership will help move the chapter in these new directions.”

Perry sees this as a great opportunity to continue the work he likes most about his former job.

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to work outside the confines of public policy advocacy and fully focus on government watchdog work. Over the past four and a half years, I’ve found exposing public corruption requires a single-minded focus, and it is the work I most want to do. I deeply appreciate the work that Common Cause Georgia does, and will continue to work with them as allies on issues that concern holding our public officials accountable.”

Newly elected Common Cause Georgia Board Chair, Clint Murphy of Savannah, said:

“We appreciate William’s service to Common Cause Georgia.  We wish him well, and look forward to working with him on important issues in the future.”

Common Cause, with the assistance of the Georgia advisory board, is beginning the process of selecting a new Executive Director.

 

Dredging company hired for Savannah Harbor wins complex project along Gulf coast

The dredging company retained to deepen the Savannah harbor has won a major contract in Louisiana, which illustrates the company’s depth of experience in handling major earth-moving projects.

Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Corp. won a $76 million contract to restore Shell Island, off the Louisiana coast. The project involves creating 2.8 miles of beach and dune habitat, and 281 acres of marsh. Funds from the BP settlement of the 2010 oil spill are paying for the work.

The project is anticipated to require 4.9 million cubic yards of sand borrowed from the Mississippi River and 1.7 million cubic yards of marsh material borrowed from an offshore source in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the company’s statement.

The plan calls for Great Lakes to transport river bed deposits from the Mississippi River in a sand and water slurry through a 16 mile long pipeline placed over two levees, bored beneath two highways, and submerged along the Empire Waterway to Shell Island, according to a statement posted on businesswire.com.

The company successfully utilized this pipeline on the Scofield Island Restoration Project in 2012 to 2013, which involved the longest direct pump dredging operation ever performed in the U.S., and also on the Shell Island East Berm Barrier Island Restoration Project in 2013, the statement said. Work on the Shell Island West project will begin this fall and is expected to be completed by the third quarter of 2016.

Meanwhile, in Savannah, port officials say the deepening project is moving forward.

On March 4, Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Corp. was announced as winner of the first phase of the the harbor deepening project. The work for this contract represents about half of the channel deepening, increasing the depth of the channel in the Atlantic Ocean to 49 feet below mean sea level, and extending it an additional seven miles, according to a statement from the Georgia Ports Authority.

Two other projects are underway:

“The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project has seen major progress in the past few months, with the contract issued to deepen the 18-mile outer harbor to 49 feet, crews raising the CSS Georgia, and installation set to start for oxygen injection systems,” GPA Executive Director Curtis Foltz said in the statement.

“The Corps of Engineers has been a steadfast partner in the 15-year process leading up to construction, and we look forward to working with the Corps and our Washington delegation to bring this pivotal project to completion,” the statement continued.

New park in Buckhead to provide access to PATH400, visioning now underway

The visioning process has started for a new park in Buckhead that’s adjacent to PATH 400, the multiuse trail being built along the Ga. 400 corridor that is to link with the Atlanta BeltLine, Livable Buckhead, Inc. announced Friday.

PATH400, future park

A park planned for a site adjacent to PATH400, on Old Ivy Road, provides this view of the Buckhead skyline. Credit: Livable Buckhead

The park is to be established at 519 Old Ivy Road. The parcel measures 0.65 acres and is located a half-mile north of Lenox Road, just west of Ga. 400.

A steering committee that’s to develop a concept plan met for the first time on July 16. The plan is to be completed in October. Atlanta is to oversee the park’s design team. Livable Buckhead, Inc. is handling community engagement.

Once the plan and cost estimates are complete, Livable Buckhead is to identify sources of funds to build the park.

Livable Buckhead brokered the acquisition of the property, which now is owned by the city of Atlanta.

Livable Buckhead purchased the property July 11, 2014 for $375,000. Livable Buckhead sold the property to the city of Atlanta on Sept. 3, 2014 for $394,349, according to Fulton County tax records.

PATH400, future park,2

The site of a future park adjacent to PATH400 has been cleared and is ready for development. Credit: Livable Buckhead

A house that once stood on the property was demolished while the construction of the first phase of PATH 400 was underway. This timing saved money and will enable the park to be built more quickly than if the house still stood, according to the July edition of BuckheadLines, the newsletter of Livable Buckhead, which was released Friday.

The house was typical of its vintage in Atlanta’s development cycle, according to tax records.

The house was built in 1939 and was spacious for its day – 2,000 square feet with a fireplace, three bedrooms and three bathrooms, and with a partial, unfinished basement, according to tax records.

PATH 400 is to be a 5.2 mile trail from Loridans Drive, in north Buckhead, to the Atlanta BeltLine, near Piedmont Hospital.

The first phase of PATH400 opened Jan. 9 – a segment about a half-mile long, from Old Ivy Road to Tower Place. The second phase is now under construction and due to be completed in early 2016 – a segment just over a half-mile stretching from Old Ivy Road to Wieuca Road.

PATH400, construction phasing

This map shows the scheduled opening times of phases of the PATH400 project. Phase two is about two months behind schedule because of design changes, according to Livable Buckhead. Credit: Livable Buckhead

Livable Buckhead is overseeing the trail’s development. Denise Starling serves as executive director of the organization, which is charged with improving sustainability and quality of life in Buckhead.

The concept for a trail emerged from Atlanta Councilmember Howard Shook’s efforts to increase the amount of park space in council District 7. Concurrently, the Buckhead Community Improvement District decided to pursue open space as part of its mission.

The study completed in 2010 determined that land for new public space is prohibitively expensive, priced at about $500 a square foot just before the great recession.

As a result, the study recommended an approach of gaining public access to land that is owned by the public, but used for purposes other than recreation.

The right-of-way along Ga. 400 provided the framework for PATH400, and the Georgia Department of Transportation provided unprecedented access to unused right-of-way. Over time, Shook has led efforts by the city to add a parcel here, a parcel there. Ultimately, the route of PATH400 was cobbled together from a number of landowners.

Five partners are instrumental in PATH400, according to Livable Buckhead:

Plans to promote walking, cycling, transit help Chattanooga win federal award

A plan to double spending on bicycle and pedestrian amenities by 2040, and add transit capacity, has earned a federal award for the transportation planning organization for Chattanooga, and its suburbs in Georgia.

Chattanooga Riverwalk, trestle

Chattanooga’s plans to double spending on bike lanes and walking paths, such as the Riverwalk, helped the region win a federal award for its transportation planning. Credit: iamfriday.me

“Building a world-class transportation system doesn’t happen overnight, and never by accident,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement issued Tuesday.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration announced Tuesday the Chattanooga-Hamilton County/North Georgia Transportation Planning Organization received one of this year’s eight Transportation Planning Excellence Awards.

“These awards recognize the critical role planning plays in meeting America’s future transportation challenges,” Foxx said.

The Chattanooga TPO was recognized for its 2040 Regional Transportation Plan, a $78 million effort to improve local transportation over the next 25 years, according to the statement.  The north Georgia counties in the organization are Catoosa, Dade, and Walker.

The Atlanta Regional Commission creates a similar plan for metro Atlanta.

The Chattanooga plan doubles bike and pedestrian funding, compared to the previous plan, while increasing roadway and transit capacity.

This was a direct outcome of surveys of Chattanooga area residents that showed 71 percent of respondents said they would consider bicycling and walking to more destinations if land uses were more friendly to those modes, according to the RTP.

Chattanooga Riverwalk

Chattanooga is planning to extend its Riverwalk to neighboring communities. Credit: timesfreepress.com

In addition, more than half the respondents said they would use transit if it were high-speed rail, or passenger rail.

Almost half the respondents said they would use transit if there were more routes, better frequency and real-time scheduling, according to the RTP.

At the same time, the RTP doesn’t back away from maintenance and construction of roads and railroads. The twist in the script is that the authors determined sidewalks and bike lanes are cost effective measures to improve mobility:

Chattnooga RTP, base map

The Chattanooga planning area includes three counties in Georgia: Catoosa, Dade, and Walker. Credit: chcrpa.org

In particular, the plan was praised for recognizing that transportation funding from all sources – federal, state, county and city – is dwindling even as mobility needs are increasing.

The U.S. DOT statement says Chattanooga’s 2040 RTP, “represents the kind of long-term planning needed nationwide to help local and state officials make the most of increasingly limited state and federal funds,” according to the statement.

Here’s how the authors of the RTP addressed the funding issue:

The lead consultant on the RTP was Atlanta-based Cambridge Systematics, Inc., which worked with Gresham Smith and Partners; Kimley Horn and Associates; and RPM Transportation Consultants.

Cambridge Systematics is working with the State Road and Tollway Authority to devise criteria for distributing $75 million to transit agencies in Georgia. The Georgia Legislature provided the funding in its 2015 session and the funds are to be distributed in January 2016, according to SRTA Executive Director Chris Tomlinson.

 

South Carolina joins Georgia in ruling against use of condemnation to build Palmetto Pipeline

A legal opinion issued by the office of South Carolina’s attorney general presents a new obstacle for a proposed pipeline for petroleum and ethanol to be built along the Savannah River and down the Georgia coast, to Jacksonville, Fla.

No Palmetto Pipeline

Savannah-area residents joined a protest rally against the Palmetto Pipeline in April. Credit: richmondhillsreflectionslive.com

The opinion contends that Kinder Morgan, Inc. does not have the power to condemn land for the purpose of installing the Palmetto Pipeline. If the pipe were to carry natural gas, the company could condemn property. But a petroleum pipeline doesn’t have the same legal standing as a gas pipeline, according to the opinion.

Through the opinion, South Carolina joins Georgia in rejecting Kinder Morgan’s ability to condemn land, if necessary, to build the 360-mile pipeline. The company contends that condemnation typically is used to acquire about 1 percent of necessary land acquisitions.

Kinder Morgan has appealed the Georgia ruling, by state Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurray. The company is expected to defend its ability to condemn land in South Carolina, if challenged in court.

The South Carolina opinion relies on laws that go back to the state’s efforts to develop a textiles industry after World War II.

In 1950, South Carolina’s legislature enacted a law that extended the state’s power of eminent domain to gas companies. Electrical companies already had condemnation powers, and the law extended the law to include natural gas in order to provide fuel for textile plants, according to the ruling.

The opinion concludes:

Palmetto Project map

The proposed Palmetto Project would provide a pipeline from a fuel trunk line in South Carolina through North Augusta, S.C., Savannah, Brunswick, and Jacksonville, Fla. File/Credit: Kinder Morgan

The opinion was released July 1 and signed by South Carolina’s solicitor general, Robert Cook. Cook was named the state’s first solicitor general in 2013. The position is charged with developing legal policies and navigating constitutional questions, according to a statement released by South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson. Cook joined the state AG’s office in 1977.

The ruling responded to a request filed by the Aiken County legislative delegation. The five members represent the area of North Augusta, which is where the proposed pipeline would cross the state line from South Caroline into Georgia.

Kinder Morgan has not issued a statement regarding the South Caroline ruling.

In a statement released after the GDOT ruling, Kinder Morgan Products Pipelines President Ron McClain said:

Palmetto Project map, detail

This map provides greater detail of the proposed route of the Palmetto Project, a fuel pipeline. File/Credit: Kinder Morgan

The proposed $1 billion Palmetto Project would begin near Belton, S.C., where it would link to an existing pipeline that stretches from Baton Rouge, La. to near Washington, D.C.

From Belton, the proposed pipeline would be built along the Savannah River corridor to Savannah. From there it would pass through the watersheds of five rivers as it reaches the Brunswick area, continuing to a stopping point near Jacksonville.

The fuel it transports, up to 167,000 barrels a day, would serve consumers who now have limited access to fuel, according to pipeline developer Kinder Morgan. The Palmetto Project would provide Savannah and Jacksonville with their first major pipeline source, supplementing fuel brought in by ship. North Augusta would benefit from additional pipeline capacity.

 

Georgia ports seek to expand rail service as cargo traffic keeps rising

Most days at the port of Savannah, about 20 trains arrive to drop a load of goods for export, reload with imports, and depart a few hours later. The state plans to grow this business with a network of transport hubs in five surrounding states.

Ports, Chatham Rail Inter-model facility

The Chatham Intermodal Transfer Facility has 15,000 feet of working railroad tracks and 7,500 feet of storage tracks in a facility that covers 160 acres. Credit: GPA

“The concept we’ll develop over the next couple of years will build on what I consider to be the largest inland intermodal complex in the entire eastern third of the United States, and that’s Atlanta, Ga.,” said Curtis Foltz, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority.

The port’s existing rail network is a substantial platform on which to start the expansion.

Atlanta and Savannah are linked by three trains that make a round trip seven days a week. CSX operates two trains, one based at Hulsey Yard, near Inman Park, and one at Fairburn; Norfolk Southern operates one train, from a yard in Austell, according to GPA’s marketing materials.

In addition, Savannah is linked by rail service to 10 cities that make round trips most days of the week. The cities, listed in alphabetical order, and the railroads that service them are:

GPA intends to scale this system in Georgia as well as five states surrounding Georgia. The expansion plan is named Network Georgia.

The first of these inland ports is being established in Crisp County, on a 40-acre site with an option to expand on 1,200 adjacent acres in the Crisp County Industrial Park. The idea is for trucks to haul goods to the inland port. From there, goods will be loaded on a train and transported the remaining 200 miles to a state port in Brunswick or Savannah. Agriculture products are expected to make up most of the materials – wood products, cotton, and peanuts.

“Our vision, flash forward a decade, is to have Savannah served by I-16 and I-95, and have mainline railroad hubbing, with focus in Atlanta,” Foltz said. “You would more and better access to a rail solution to improve the economy of doing business in those regions, and lowering pressure on our roadways.”

Truck traffic stemming from the Savannah port has become such an issue that Gov. Nathan Deal has announced plans to beef up safety enforcement patrols on I-16 and in metro Atlanta. The state has created 60 new positions in commercial vehicle enforcement, and they will join an agency that now has 234 officers. Officers also will be stationed along I-85, in Troop County.

The $10 million cost of increased enforcement will be shared equally by GPA and the state Department of Public Safety.

Georgia’s ports are experiencing record growth.

The increase initially was chalked up to the closure of California ports over the past winter, prompting shippers to reroute freight to the east coast. However, the growth has persisted.

Every month this year, the Savannah port has set new records for the amount of cargo handled. The state port in Brunswick also is notching increases.

At the June 22 meeting of the board that oversees the Georgia Ports Authority, Foltz reported the state’s ports recorded increases of 16.4 percent in 20-foot equivalent containers, and 9.6 percent in freight. The rates compare May 2015 with May 2014.

At the port of Brunswick, the East River Terminal recorded a 44.2 percent in commodities, also for the May comparison. The nearby Colonel’s Island Terminal recorded a 40.2 percent increase, largely due to growth in soybean meal.

“Superior service and unmatched connectivity to inland markets are driving growth at Georgia’s deepwater ports,” GPA Chairman James Walters said in a statement. “Our ability to handle expanding cargo volumes – without congestion delays – has set GPA apart in support of farming, retail and manufacturing customers.”

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