JASPER CO., SC (WTOC) - South Carolina Ports Authority officials announced the Jasper Ocean Terminal project may be delayed for a decade.
The $5 billion project is the largest economic development project on the East Coast, and it will bring hundreds of thousands of jobs to South Carolina and the rest of the country.
"This is going to be the largest port in the world, the most technologically advanced, and as far as logistics, security, state-of-the-art technology, this will be the most of any port in the world," Jasper County councilman Marty Sauls said. "There will be two miles of dock space for a ship to dock at. That's a lot."
Sauls said he's already seeing the positive economic impacts of the port before it's been built in business investment in the county.
"Companies that are looking here, global companies that are looking to relocate here, are factoring in the Jasper Ocean Terminal and what that'll be to benefit their business," Sauls said.
The project is a joint effort between the South Carolina Ports Authority and the Georgia Ports Authority. Three members of the South Carolina Ports Authority and three members of the Georgia Ports Authority make up the joint project office tasked with designing, building and operating the Jasper Ocean Terminal.
Jasper County leaders and state lawmakers from the Lowcountry said the last timeline they saw for the Jasper Ocean Terminal showed it opening in 2025.
They recently found out from South Carolina Ports Authority CEO Jim Newsome that likely won't happen. Sauls says the Port of Charleston found a new way to store containers, so it won't reach capacity as soon as expected. Now, it will likely be 2035 before the Jasper Ocean Terminal is needed and operational.
"Georgia Port Authority's timeline might be a little sooner, which I believe that it is, so those two port authorities are gonna have to agree on a common date," Sauls said.
State Representative Shannon Erickson was so surprised by the announcement she wrote a letter to Newsome saying, "The directive you have is to develop the JOT, delaying it for a decade does not sound to me like that is what is happening."
Sauls said he understands timelines for something like this are fluid, but he would like to see the project completed sooner rather than later.
"Jasper County is one of the fifth poorest counties, but we're also one of the fastest growing," he said. "A lot of the economic development activity we have is based on the port and the anticipation of the Jasper Ocean Terminal. I mean, we always want to see that timeline moved up. We'd like to start moving dirt today, if possible. That's going to transform Jasper, the state of South Carolina, the state of Georgia. It's gonna be huge."
Moving forward, Sauls said he'd like better communication between those planning the Jasper Ocean Terminal project and city and county leaders. He also wants the decision-makers communicating with citizens to ensure everyone is on the same page and knows what's going on.
"I want everybody to know, especially our Jasper County and our regional citizens, the county is focused with our partners on supporting and facilitating the Jasper Ocean Terminal in any and every way possible," Sauls said. "That is our number one priority as a council is to focus on the Jasper Ocean Terminal."