The Jasper Ocean Terminal was originally set to open in 2028, but the South Carolina Ports Authority recently pushed it to 2035.
Now one local senator is saying that’s illegal.
“It’s a tragedy here. I mean just because these counties are not politically powerful, because they don’t have great commercial centers, they don’t have powerful legislative leaders like Charleston does, that’s no reason to let this asset lie idle,” said Senator Tom Davis, representing Beaufort and Jasper counties.
The Jasper Ocean Terminal, located on the South Carolina side of the Savannah River, is set to bring thousands of jobs and economic growth to some of the poorest counties in the state.
“It would be equal to BMW in Greenville, Michelin in the Midlands, and Boeing in the Lowcountry, combined,” Davis said. “And the people of Jasper County deserve it.”
He explained that many living in Hampton, Colleton and Allendale need better options for jobs, health care and schools.
And Davis is taking action.
He has added a proviso to the 2018-2019 budget, reminding the South Carolina Ports Authority that it has an immediate obligation to build the Jasper port.
“In 2009, we passed a law that told the South Carolina Ports Authority that it had an obligation to ‘expeditiously’ develop a port in Jasper County,” Davis said. “We’re going ahead and reminding them that they are under a legislative mandate, and making sure they discharge that mandate and follow the law.”
In addition to helping the Lowcountry economy, Davis says the Jasper port will be beneficial to the Savannah Port.
The Savannah Port is predicted to meet capacity by 2028 and Davis says the Jasper Ocean Terminal needs to be ready to help when that time comes.
Because many large ships can’t pass under the Talmadge Bridge, the Jasper port’s location near the opening of the river would help accommodate big ships.
Davis is forming an alliance with reps from surrounding counties to start pushing the South Carolina Ports Authority to take action.
“You can’t just trust them to do what we told him to do. They’ve demonstrated over and over again that they’ll kick the can down the road and they’ll shoehorn even more capacity into downtown Charleston and ignore Jasper County as long as we let them,” Davis said. “You need to insist upon it. You need to lobby for it. And you need to go ahead and insist action. That’s what I hope to do.”