A 1,500-acre port in Jasper County would not threaten the prosperity of nearby ports in Charleston and Savannah, U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson told a group of area Republicans on Monday.
Wilson, R-West Columbia, and state Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, spoke in favor of the proposed deep-water port during a meeting of the Hilton Head Island First Monday Republican Lunch Group.
Wilson said he, Davis and Gov. Nikki Haley are among the state's few politicians who believe the Jasper County port can coexist with ports in Charleston and at Savannah's Garden City terminal.
"I'm one of the only elected officials who is politically incorrect enough to say that I'm for all three ports," Wilson said. "I believe they really fit together."
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For more than five years, Georgia and South Carolina have been working on a joint port in Jasper County that would be downstream from the Savannah port. The site is about six miles closer to the Atlantic Ocean than the Garden City terminal.
Together, the states own about 1,500 acres in South Carolina and have spent several million dollars on the Jasper port plan, although officials in both states have questioned whether demand exists to support all three regional ports even after the Panama Canal is widened and deepened in 2014.
Curtis Foltz of the Georgia Ports Authority told the Journal of Commerce in March that there will be enough business to "require all the capacity that Savannah's Garden City terminal, the container terminals in Charleston and a future Jasper (port) can provide."
Davis agreed Tuesday and called arguments to the contrary "wrongheaded."
Opponents of the Jasper County port "don't think in terms of long-term strategy," Davis said. "They think in terms of turf. There's more than enough demand for all three ports. If we don't do this, the business will go to Norfolk ... or Jacksonville or Baltimore, and we would have shot ourselves in the foot here."
Wilson also spoke about the upcoming election, looming Department of Defense budget cuts and a possible reconvening of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission as proposed by the Pentagon.
"A future BRAC will become too political," Wilson said. "(President Barack Obama's) administration is not interested in working with the elected officials and leaders of one state and we live in it. This administration has a very negative view of the people of South Carolina."