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SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) – A federal agency said on Tuesday that machines designed to inject supplemental oxygen for fish to breathe in the Port of Savannah had passed a second round of tests that were needed as part of the $ 973 million deepening of the shipping channel to the Port of Savannah.

The Army Corps of Engineers released a 172-page report which concluded testing last summer found that the injection machines were able to compensate for a small loss of dissolved oxygen in the water as the river deepened to make room for larger cargo ships.

The Corps spent $ 100 million to build a pair of stations on the Savannah River equipped with large machines that suck the water, swirl it with oxygen extracted from the air, and inject the mixture back into the river. home to endangered blue crabs, striped bass and shortnose sturgeon.

A 2013 legal settlement with environmental groups who filed a lawsuit for the deepening of the port required the corps to prove the machines worked.

Southern Environmental Law Center attorney Chris DeScherer, who represented the groups in the federal lawsuit, said he had not yet reviewed the Corps report in full. He said he was concerned about the government’s commitment to run the machines long-term at an estimated cost of $ 3 million per year.

“We remain skeptical of any plan to use these mechanical devices in perpetuity without a guaranteed source of funding to effectively address this issue over such a large stretch of the river,” DeScherer said in an emailed statement.

When the Corps previously reported a successful first round of testing in 2019, DeScherer expressed similar doubts. Yet environmental groups have chosen not to resume a legal battle over the project.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, which as a party to the 2013 legal settlement, did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

The corps said its second round of tests found that two oxygen injection stations on the river pumped an average of 40,000 pounds (about 18,000 kilograms) of oxygen into the river per day from late July to late July. September. He found oxygen well mixed throughout the water column.

The injectors will operate each year during the hottest months of the year, June through September, when oxygen levels in the river tend to be lowest.

The agency said next year it is expected to complete deepening the 43-kilometer shipping channel that connects the Port of Savannah to the Atlantic Ocean.

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