A Memo from Sen Tom Davis on the Jasper Port

Subject: Advocacy for the Jasper Port

TO:Sen. John Matthews, Sen. Brad Hutto, Sen. Chip Campsen, Sen. Margie Bright Matthews, Rep. Justin Bamberg, Rep. Lonnie Hosey, Rep. Patsy Knight, Rep. Robert Brown, Rep. Bill Herbkersman, Rep. Weston Newton, Rep. Michael Rivers, Rep. Bill Bowers, Rep. Jeff Bradley and Rep. Shannon Erickson

FROM:Sen. Tom Davis, Senate District 46 (Portions of Beaufort and Jasper counties)


The 15 of us are the members of the South Carolina General Assembly who represent those residing within the seven-county area – Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties – comprising the Southern Carolina Regional Development Alliance (the “Alliance”). In addition to sending this memo to your government email addresses, I am bcc’ing it to your personal email addresses in order to maximize the chances of you receiving and reading it in a timely manner.

I have been involved in efforts to build the Jasper Port for over a decade; I was then-South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s chief of staff in March of 2007 when he and then-Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue signed a Bi-State Term Sheet that outlined a critical path for the South Carolina and Georgia to develop the port, together. And although progress has been made since that time, it has been incredibly frustrating, to say the least, to subsequently watch an incredible natural asset like the Jasper Port site continue to lie dormant.

It is my hope we can work together, through the Alliance, to overcome this inertia and advocate collectively for a project whose impact in our state, according to economic models, would be greater than that of BMW, Michelin and Boeing, combined. This email summarizes where things now stand and attaches some documents key to understanding both the current status and the way forward.

Georgia’s port in Savannah will reach capacity around 2028 and I believe the Georgia Ports Authority (the “GPA”) would prefer for the Jasper Port to handle its additional needs; however, because the president of the South Carolina State Ports Authority (the “SCSPA”) said earlier this year the SCSPA won’t need the Jasper Port until sometime after 2035, the GPA is now considering other expansion options, e.g., the site of its existing administrative facilities (which could be razed) and/or Hutchinson Island.

If the GPA acts on those other expansion options, the Jasper Port is effectively dead. For that reason, it is critical for South Carolina to convince the GPA that the first phase of the Jasper Port will be built and operational by 2028. The South Carolina General Assembly certainly has that expectation – it has directed the SCSPA to “expeditiously” build the Jasper Port on three separate occasions: in Act 56 in 2007, in Act 73 in 2009 and, most recently, in Proviso 88.6 of the FY 2018-2019 budget; copies attached – but that expectation has not been met.

Due to this lack of progress the South Carolina General Assembly recently decided to take – by including Proviso 88.6 in the current budget as a directional modifier to the $1.425 million Jasper Port appropriation – a more active role in ensuring that the Jasper Port is built “expeditiously” (defined by the Oxford Dictionary as acting “with speed and efficiency”). In addition to reminding the SCSPA of its legislative duty to act “expeditiously,” this proviso includes several other important provisions; in full, it reads as follows:

88.6. (SPA: Jasper Ocean Terminal Permitting) The funds appropriated to the State Ports Authority (SPA) for the Jasper Ocean Terminal shall be utilized by the SPA to pay for activities approved and directed by the joint venture governing board and associated with advancing the Project during FY 2018-19. In connection with activities that are approved and directed by the joint venture, SPA shall comply with the directive of Section 54-3-115 of the South Carolina Code in regard to taking “all action necessary to expeditiously develop a port in Jasper County.” Activities undertaken during FY 2018-19 may include, but are not limited to, the following:

1. working on a corporate governance model for the joint venture as an operating port;

2. working on terminal simulation for design and operation;

3. working on plans, studies, and modeling in conjunction with the respective South Carolina and Georgia Departments of Transportation and the metropolitan planning organization to identify and assess supporting road and rail infrastructure for the terminal footprint including, but not limited to, supporting infrastructure that may have independent utility;

4. working on sedimentation modeling for impacts on construction and dredging;

5. taking actions in furtherance of obtaining: (a) a Department of the Army permit pursuant to Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act; (b) a permit pursuant to Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, to prepare a Channel Modification Feasibility Study; and(c) studies necessary in connection with developing an Environmental Impact Statement for the Project; and

6. discharging its obligations pursuant to its Joint Venture Agreement with the Georgia Ports Authority.

The funds appropriated to SPA for the Jasper Ocean Terminal Permitting may not be used for reimbursement of SPA expenditures made in a prior fiscal year and must be used only for one or more of the purposes set forth above.

SPA shall provide a detailed report in writing to the members of the South Carolina General Assembly on or before the first day of the 2019 legislative session and another such report on or before June 30, 2019, describing the progress made as of the dates of those reports in regard to the Jasper Ocean Terminal, such to include a description of the ongoing and planned work.

Note the proviso requires the SCSPA to provide members of the South Carolina General Assembly with written updates twice a year on Jasper Port progress and to discharge it obligations pursuant to the Joint Venture Agreement (the “JVA,” copy attached) with the GPA. The latter directive is of particular importance in that the JVA provides, among other things, as follows:

“The Parties acknowledge and agree that the permit application for the Jasper Ocean Terminal and the request for a feasibility study to accomplish the necessary channel modifications that will deepen and widen the Savannah River will be filed and initiated simultaneously, or as quickly as possible in compliance with USCAE policy.” (Paragraph 4(b) of the JVA.)
“Funding. The Parties shall provide in equal shares funding: (i) of the Joint Venture operations through the NEPA permitting phase and finalization of plans for design, construction and financing …” (Paragraph 4(i) of the JVA.)
“GPA and SCSPA acknowledge and agree that initially, and until completed, the Parties must obtain the Required Permits as outlined in Paragraph 4(f) above. GPA and SCSPA further acknowledge and agree that obtaining such Required Permits shall be the sole focus of the Parties.” (Paragraph 5 of the JVA.)
I emphasize these portions of the JVA since the SCSPA’s president suggested earlier this year that, because the SCSPA did not need any non-Charleston capacity until sometime after 2035, Jasper Port permitting should be discontinued or suspended. The provisions of the JVA referenced above and the directives in the budget proviso, however, make clear that such permitting activities must not only be continued but undertaken quickly.

In terms of immediate advocacy, I suggest we monitor the activities of and direct comments to the six-member Board of Directors for the Jasper Ocean Terminal Joint Venture (the “JOT Board”). The Jasper Port site (map showing location attached) is owned by the GPA and the SCSPA as tenants in common, but the JVA provides for the JOT Board to direct the project’s development.

The JOT Board will probably meet later this summer, so I suggest the 15 of us participate in a conference call prior to the end of this month to discuss what we can be done to ensure the first phase of the Jasper Port is ready when it is needed by the GPA in 2028, and to set times and places for future meetings. Please provide me and my assistant Cindy Graves, who I am copying, with some times and dates when you would be available for such a call.

As for longer term advocacy, I suggest we push for more funding in next year’s state budget, not only for permitting, but for the port connector road. In that regard, attached is a resolution passed by the JOT Board that: 1) acknowledges that Act 56 in 2007 established the Jasper County Port Infrastructure Fund; 2) estimates the total cost of the port connector road at $190 million (i.e., $95 million for each of the two states); and 3) calls for this infrastructure cost to be amortized over five years so funds to construct the connector road are on hand when the permit to build the port is issued.

South Carolina’s $95 million share of that cost, spread over five years, comes to $19 million year. Therefore, in addition to funds for permitting, I suggest we push for a $19 million appropriation in the FY 2019-2020 budget, with the funds being deposited into the Jasper County Port Infrastructure Fund and their ultimate expenditure contingent upon Georgia matching this and subsequent appropriations. This would be a strong statement by South Carolina that it intends for the first phase of the Jasper Port to be built and operational when the GPA needs it in 2028.

I apologize for the length of this email, but it is important we all get on the same page as quickly as possible. Working together, I am confident we can effectively advocate for the expeditious building of the Jasper Port and leave no doubt as to South Carolina’s commitment to move forward with this project in a timely manner. I look forward to hearing back from you on suggested times/dates for the conference call. Thanks for your consideration.

Tom Davis
State Senator for District 46
Post Office Box 1107
Beaufort, SC 29901
(843) 524-3109

P.S. It is likely we collectively constitute a “public body” within the meaning of S.C. Code Ann. §30-4-20; therefore, I am bcc’ing media and other interested parties in the Alliance area with this email and will subsequently provide them with notice of the time and date of our conference call, along with instructions on how to dial in and an agenda.

THE FOLLOWING MATERIAL IS AVAILABLE TO SUPPLEMENT THIS MEMO. Please email me at Tom@senatortomdavis.com and my staff will forward it to you.

Act 56 passed by the South Carolina General Assembly in 2007
Act 73 passed by the South Carolina General Assembly in 2009
Proviso 88.6 in the FY 2018-2019 budget
Spreadsheet showing Jasper Port funding in the FY 2018-2019 budget
Jasper Ocean Terminal Joint Venture Agreement
Infrastructure Resolution by the JOT Board


Paid for and authorized by the Beaufort County Republican Party.

Not Authorized by any Candidate or Candidate's Committee.