Legislators Have New Proposal for Jasper Port

South Carolina state senators Clementa Pinkney and David Thomas have just introduced an agreement that could end a longstanding legal battle. It's been going on for years between the South Carolina Ports Authority and Jasper County over a proposed port site.

This proposed agreement would help Jasper County move forward in its plans to build the port, but it's not looking too favorable.

For more than a decade, Jasper County has been fighting to develop more than 1,800 acres on the South Carolina side of the Savannah River. And they're hoping this proposal will end the legal tug of war with the ports authority.

"The positive thing is it will settle one of the lawsuits and we can move forward with our plan," said county deputy administrator Rose Dobson.

Under this proposed agreement, Jasper County would continue with its plans and would receive $4 million a year from the port's revenues. However, they would lose roughly $1 million that would have come from a container charge in their original contract with SSA Marine.

After 32 years, the county would then have to turn ownership over to the state.

"It's a win-win situation for both," said county deputy administrator Ronnie Malphrus. "Like I say, it would allow us to move forward and give the state ports authority some assurance that down the road they would have some say and ownership of the terminal."

But in a news release, the South Carolina Ports Authority says it has not agreed to this proposed contract and will not agree to it. They went on to say, "We firmly believe our insistence on an open, competitive process to select a private partner for a public port is reasonable and is in the best interest of Jasper County, of the Charleston area, and of the entire state of South Carolina."

But Jasper County says that won't end their fight. "No, we're not backing down, we're going to continue going on," said Malphrus.

Even if both parties come to a compromise, Jasper County still has another hurdle: a lawsuit with the Georgia Department of Transportation over the land.

Reported by: Jaime Dailey, jdailey@wtoc.com