Corps wants International Paper’s pipelines moved ahead of harbor deepening

International Paper is evaluating pipelines under the Savannah River that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wants removed and replaced to keep them out of the way of dredging as the harbor is deepened.

Pipelines built in 1972 and 1989 connect the mill facility on Lathrop Avenue to its treatment facility on Hutchinson Island.

The oldest pipe, more than three feet in diameter and made of plastic, is no longer in use. But another 3.5 foot diameter steel pipe still carries the plant’s industrial wastewater to its treatment ponds across the river. There’s also an active 10-inch electrical conduit.

“International Paper has multiple utility lines that cross underneath the river to serve their aeration lagoon,” corps spokesman Billy Birdwell said. “Some of them will need to be moved to accommodate deepening of the inner harbor.”

The joint federal/state harbor expansion project will deepen the harbor from its current 42 feet to 47 feet. An additional five feet is allowed as overdredge. The corps wants to clear the river of anything buried at a depth of less than 64 feet.

“We’ve got to make sure we don’t accidentally get into anything; we have to make sure there’s clearance,” Birdwell said. “Dredging is not an exact science. They’re working in total darkness based on instrumentation.”

The IP pipelines are the only ones the corps is aware of that must be moved. It will be putting out a public notice soon calling on the public to inform it if other such lines exist.

“We issued a similar inquiry several years ago and want to confirm that we have the most recent information,” Birdwell said.

Plans files with the Department of Natural Resources call for removing the old pipe and installing nearly a third of a mile of five-foot steel casing with a 42-inch steel carrier and conduit bundle.

All the work will take place within the limits of an easement in the river granted to IP by Georgia in 1972 for $5,000. That same easement prohibits IP from seeking state or federal compensation for having to move the lines. Commercial navigation takes precedence.

“They have to get out of our way,” Birdwell said.

An IP spokeswoman declined to say how much the move would cost or if the company was paying, or even if the company agrees that the pipes must be moved.

“We are currently evaluating how the existing infrastructure at our Savannah Mill may be impacted by the Savannah Harbor Expansion…

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