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Savannah Community-Port Collaboration Pilot Project

In 2016, EPA selected the Harambee House, Inc. / Citizens for Environmental Justice (Harambee House)Exitto receive EPA technical assistance and pilot a draft Community-Port Collaboration ToolkitThis pilot project was one of four pilots that were collectively known as the Near-Port Community Capacity Building Project. Harambee House applied to participate in the pilot program to strengthen collaboration between near-port communities, Georgia Ports Authority (GPA)Exitand other Port of Savannah terminal operator/owners. This page provides an overview of the pilot project. For more information, go to Case Study: Savannah Pilot (PDF)(4 pp, 311 K, EPA-420-F-20-024, July 2020 About PDF).  

On this page:

Technical Assistance

Savannah pilot engagement meeting photoIn May  2017, EPA convened the first of a series of in-person Needs Assessment meetings involving GPA, community leaders and the City of Savannah.  The Needs Assessment included the following.

  • Boat and bus tours of the Port of Savannah and GPA terminal facilities;
  • Tour of the near-port communities; and
  • Sharing of experiences and views on the status of their working relationships.

Based on the the Needs Assessment, the EPA technical assistance provider developed a draft collaboration plan with shared goals and outcomes to guide the pilot process. The plan outlined three site visits with in-person training and facilitated meetings aimed at creating a shared action plan to improve air quality for Savannah’s near-port communities. The following training was conducted: Ports Operations 101, Effective Community Engagement, and Leadership Skills-Building.


There were several successful outcomes from the Savannah Pilot including the following. 

  • Increased awareness of air quality-related health risks and truck and rail traffic health and safety concerns;
  • Shared understanding about past air quality levels, current air quality trends and opportunities for continued improvement;
  • Increased community understanding of technical and scientific information related to Port activities;
  • Development of an environmental/public health working group of residents;
  • The Air Quality Improvement Action Plan for Savannah’s Near-Port Communities, which addresses community concerns through tangible action steps; and 
  • Increased trust and expanded partnerships between community leaders, the City of Savannah, GPA and port-related, industry and agency partners.

Lessons Learned

The pilot resulted in the following set of insights that could be helpful to other ports communities:

  • Renew relationships and build intentional partnerships;
  • Be flexible and persistent with unexpected challenges;
  • Understand local environmental justice history;
  • Provide accurate information on existing conditions and empower community leaders to gather data;
  • Address participation barriers for community leaders; and 
  • Invest in expanding partnerships that align actions with community-defined needs and goals.

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