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Savannah Riverkeeper v. South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control

ELR Citation: 42 ELR 20231
Nos. 27182, (S.C., 11/02/2012)

South Carolina's highest court held that the state's environmental agency violated state law when it negotiated an agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Georgia Ports Authority before issuing a CWA §401 water quality certificate for a proposed expansion project for Savannah Harbor. The Corps initiated the expansion project in order to dredge and deepen the navigation channel in the Savannah River to facilitate its use by ocean-going vessels traveling to and from the port of Savannah. The plain language of S.C. Code Ann. §54-6-10 gives the Savannah River Maritime Commission, not the state environmental agency, the responsibility and exclusive authority to represent South Carolina in all matters pertaining or collaterally related to dredging in the Savannah River for purposes of navigation by ocean-going container or commerce vessels, and §401 certification for the expansion project fell within the scope of that authority. The agency, therefore, violated §54-6-10 when it issued the §401 certification. The certification, therefore, is denied, and any future activity, including any negotiations concerning the certification, must be directed to the Maritime Commission.