SC maritime panel supports widened river complaint

A cargo ship travels down the Savannah River, past River Street, Savannah, Ga.

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) -- A special commission overseeing South Carolina's interests on the Savannah River agrees that a federal judge should decide whether the $650 million deepening of the river's shipping channel is subject to South Carolina's environmental laws.

The Savannah River Maritime Commission filed court documents on Monday siding with environmental groups who earlier asked U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel to settle the question.

Environmental groups in both South Carolina and Georgia originally sued saying the deepening work needs a permit under the South Carolina's Pollution Control Act. In court filings last week, the groups noted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has repeatedly said the project could proceed without approvals from South Carolina.

So the plaintiffs asked that the court rule on the wider issue whether South Carolina environmental law applies.