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Portside: GPA celebrates Arbor Day, gets lift from Trump budget

In honor of national Arbor Day last Friday, the Georgia Ports Authority held a special tree-planting ceremony at Garden City Terminal to replace a historic oak lost during Hurricane Matthew last year.

“As we improve our operations and upgrade facilities, we take every step we can to preserve Georgia’s historic, majestic trees,” said GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch.

“The 10-year-old live oak sapling we’re planting today is a small example of how the GPA provides for our natural resources today and into the future.”

On the 1,200-acre Garden City Terminal, the GPA protects and preserves habitats from wetlands to old growth oak trees, as part of its commitment to conduct port operations in an environmentally responsible manner.

The sapling planted Friday joins a grove of about a dozen trees adjacent to Highway 25 that are more than 200 years old. The oldest oaks at the port facility date to the mid-1600s.

Local arborist Shannon Baughman applauded the GPA’s sustainability effort in protecting the trees.

“Maintaining these old-growth trees at a working port shows that it is possible for industry and the natural environment to coexist,” Baughman said. “The shade these trees provide, the oxygen they produce and the carbon sequestered in their massive trunks provide long-term benefits to the area.

It’s exciting that the Georgia Ports Authority recognizes their value.”

Funding a deeper harbor

The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to approve the Consolidated Appropriations Act, a bipartisan deal to fund the government through September and prevent a shutdown — at least for the next five months.

The Senate followed suit Thursday.

Among the key priorities for our part of the state was continued funding for the deepwater ports of Savannah and Brunswick, including $42.7 million for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project – or SHEP – and $28 million in harbor maintenance funds.

“Our ports are the economic engines of not just our area and not just our state but of the entire region,” said Congressman Buddy Carter (R-Ga.), who voted in support of the measure.

“This bill keeps them chugging along and continues work on Georgia’s number one economic development initiative: the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project.”

Rep. Tom Graves, (R-Ga.) agreed, noting that the bill maintains the the original amount requested by then-President Obama for harbor deepening in fiscal 2017.

That amount was originally met with harsh criticism, both from Gov. Nathan Deal and Georgia’s Congressional delegation, with Deal declaring that any amount under $90 million every fiscal year, beginning with 2017 and going forward, would put the project further behind and jeopardize GPA’s market share.

Not surprisingly, the Republican governor’s concerns fell on deaf ears in the Obama White House.

The goal now, said GPA executive director Griff Lynch on Thursday, is to avoid a government shutdown, which will keep that original allocation available through September, and hope the Trump administration will look more favorably on the urgency of the project in its fiscal 2018 proposal.

“The biggest difference I see between now and this time last year is a new sense of positive energy toward the project, both from the Corps of Engineers and the White House,” Lynch said. “The funds we have now, mostly thanks to the state, will keep us going this year.”

Georgia has already put up its share of the project cost. In fact that amount — $266 million — has been drawn from extensively in the last year to keep the dredges in the outer harbor digging.

“But we will hit a critical point next year where not having adequate funds will cause serious problems,” Lynch said.

“The President’s fiscal 2018 budget request will be extremely important.”

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Senior business reporter Mary Carr Mayle covers the ports for the Savannah Morning News and savannahnow. She can be reached at 912-652-0324 or at mary.mayle@savannahnow.com.

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Following are the ships expected to call on Georgia Ports Authority’s Garden City and Ocean terminals this week. Schedules are supplied by GPA and are subject to change.

TERMINAL VESSEL ETA

GCT MAERSK CHICAGO Today

GCT SEAMAX NORWALK Today

GCT MAERSK WOLFSBURG Today

GCT MSC BARBARA Today

GCT PHILADELPHIA EXPRESS Today

GCT CMA CGM GEORGIA Today

GCT GREEN RAY Today

OT GROUSE ARROW Today

GCT MSC LUISA Saturday

GCT MSC ILONA Saturday

GCT APL SALALAH Saturday

GCT SPIRIT OF TOKYO Saturday

GCT NYK DENEB Saturday

GCT MAERSK KAWASAKI Saturday

GCT SANTA BETTINA Saturday

GCT OOCL EUROPE Saturday

GCT NORTHERN MONUMENT Saturday

OT ALWINE OLDENDORFF Saturday

GCT MSC ZLATA R Sunday

GCT MSC PINA Sunday

GCT HANGZHOU BAY BRIDGE Sunday

GCT MATAQUITO Sunday

GCT ALBERT MAERSK Sunday

GCT STI MANHATTAN Sunday

OT FIGARO Sunday

GCT SEAMAX GREENWICH Monday

GCT CMA CGM ALMAVIVA Monday

GCT MSC JAPAN Monday

GCT MAERSK GATESHEAD Monday

GCT YORKTOWN EXPRESS Monday

OT BAHRI YANBU Monday

OT GRANDE GUINEA Monday

OT RESOLVE Monday

GCT MAERSK KOTKA Tuesday

GCT CMA CGM MUSSET Tuesday

GCT ZIM CONSTANZA Tuesday

GCT MSC ANTONELLA Tuesday

OT STAR LINDESNES Tuesday

GCT CZECH Wednesday

GCT MADHA SILVER Wednesday

GCT JAN Wednesday

OT TUGELA Wednesday

GCT OCEAN BLUE Thursday

GCT BERLIN BRIDGE Thursday

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