By Matt Tomsic
Published June 25, 2012
SAVANNAH — A temporary injunction hamstrung the Jasper Ocean Terminal Joint Project Office during its meeting today and kept the board from voting on the office’s fiscal year 2013 budget.
Board member David Posek, who is also a S.C. State Ports Authority board member, said the Savannah River Maritime Commission asked the board to postpone the meeting because of a jurisdictional issue: The maritime commission argues state law gives it jurisdiction over the Savannah River and the body should be involved in decisions affecting the river, where the Jasper Ocean Terminal would be located.
The June 21 injunction ordered South Carolina board members not to call votes, not to cast votes, not to express opinions and not to agree to bind the state of South Carolina.
The injunction further ordered that the South Carolina members abstain from votes unless they received permission from the maritime commission. The injunction is effective until Oct. 1.
“We’re working very hard with the commission,” Posek said, adding they’re trying to create a memorandum of understanding to allow the board to operate. “What it basically says (is) we can’t vote on any issues before the board.”
Jim Balloun, the board chairman, said he and Posek talked about the injunction before the meeting and agreed that Balloun, as chairman, will authorize the expenditures for fiscal year 2013 each month. At some point, the board will authorize the full year’s budget.
“The alternative would be to stop everything and lose the momentum,” said Balloun, who is also a Georgia Ports Authority board member.
The Joint Project Office has roughly $1.5 million left from the original $6 million contribution from Georgia and South Carolina when the project was announced, Balloun said. The project office proposes to spend roughly $1 million to continue coordinating with local districts of the Army Corps of Engineers, to analyze the Savannah River’s capacity and navigation, and to study the economics of the project, including estimating the Jasper Ocean Terminal’s market area and studying container market growth and other development scenarios.
Balloun said phase I of the project is still 12 to 15 years away.