U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., today praised the unanimous Senate passage of their bill, S.535, the Fort Pulaski National Monument Lease Authorization Act. The legislation would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to lease land within Fort Pulaski National Monument, allowing the Savannah Bar Pilots Association continue to operate at the location on Cockspur Island that has been used continuously by the group since 1940.
Isakson and Chambliss introduced the Fort Pulaski National Monument Lease Authorization Act in March 2011, and it passed unanimously in the Senate on Wednesday. Similar legislation is pending in the House.
"I am pleased that the Senate passed legislation to ensure the Savannah Bar Pilots are able to remain on Cockspur Island so they can do their job in directing ship traffic," said Isakson. "With this legislation the bar pilots will continue to play a critically important role in Georgia's economy as we deepen and grow the Savannah port to accommodate the expansion of the Panama Canal."
"For nearly 150 years, the Savannah Bar Pilots have been safely guiding vessels on the route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Port of Savannah," said Chambliss. "I am pleased the Senate passed our legislation, ensuring that Savannah Bar Pilots will be able to continue the tradition for many years to come."
In 1940, the National Park Service authorized a special use permit to the Savannah Bar Pilots Association for the exclusive use of its land to operate a vessel piloting business. The National Park Service has issued a series of permit renewals during the ensuing 70 years.
However, in recent years, the National Park Service has been advised by the Department of the Interior's Solicitor's Office that the association's use of this land should be based on more certain legal authority than the special use permitting process.
Isakson and Chambliss' legislation, S.535, would authorize a non-competitive lease that would enable the Savannah Bar Pilots Association to continue traditional operations from its Fort Pulaski location.
The Bar Pilots serve a function that is vital to the state's deepwater ports and inland barge terminals, including directing ship traffic and assisting in navigation in the Savannah Harbor.