Published 2:05 pm Friday, December 5, 2008

By Staff
Which is slower, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers handling a request by PCS Phosphate to expand its mining operations near Aurora or a snail trekking up a hill?
When it comes to making a decision on the PCS Phosphate request, the Corps of Engineers is taking its sweet time. So much so that its snail-like pace has soured the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners’ view of the Corps of Engineers.
The decision by the commissioners to plan a trip to Washington, D.C., to lobby for a speedier decision on PCS Phosphate’s request is a welcome one. One can imagine Commissioner Hood Richardson arguing to the Corps of Engineers for it to do its job and make a determination on the request to expand PCS Phosphate’s mining operations. Talk about something being entertaining and educational, that argument by Richardson would be just that.
Richardson has made it no secret he is not a fan of most, if not all, bureaucrats. Turning Richardson loose on bureaucrats is like turning an anteater loose at an ant hill.
The commissioners understand the need for a decision by the Corp of Engineers. They also understand that lack of a decision so far has placed PCS Phosphate, the county’s largest employer, in a tenuous situation regarding its future. That should worry the commissioners. A loss of jobs because of cutbacks by PCS Phosphate, cutbacks forced by an indecisive Corps of Engineers, would be devastating to the county’s economy, already feeling the effects of layoffs at Fountain Powerboats and Impressions Marketing.
This year alone, this newspaper has published several stories about PCS Phosphate waiting for the Corp of Engineers to make a decision. It’s a good bet that PCS Phosphate’s wait for that decision will be among this newspaper’s Top 10 stories for 2008.
That would be a shame.
The wait has cost contracting jobs at the company’s complex near Aurora. “Wait costs contracting jobs” was a headline on the front page of the June 26 edition of the Washington Daily News.
PCS Phosphate deserves a decision soon, real soon. If the decision is to allow the expansion, PCS Phosphate can move forward with that expansion. If the decision is to not allow the expansion, PCS Phosphate can begin to respond to that decision and better plan for its future in Beaufort County. If the decision allows partial expansion or modifies what PCS Phosphate wants to do with its mining operations, the company will be able to deal with that situation.
Waiting this long and not knowing what the decision will be is unfair to PCS Phosphate, its workers and Beaufort County.
Richardson, during the commissioners’ meeting Monday, said that PCS Phosphate “is vital to the success of the county.”
The Corps of Engineers may have concerns about how the expansion would affect the environment, which includes wetlands.
Beaufort County commissioners are concerned about the effects that the wait for a decision or an unfavorable decision would have on the county and its residents.
Wetlands are important. They should be protected.
People are more important. They and their livelihoods must be protected.
It’s way past time for a decision by the Corps of Engineers.
Go get’em, commissioners!