CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) -- The Army Corps of Engineers wants an exemption from a clean water permit South Carolina must approve for the $650 million deepening of the Savannah River shipping channel.

That permit is the subject of a much-publicized dispute now before the state Supreme Court.

The corps announced last week it has given final approval to the deepening project so larger container ships can call at Georgia's ports.

In a letter acquired Monday by The Associated Press, the assistant secretary of the Army writes to Sen. Barbara Boxer of California seeking an exemption from the South Carolina permit approval.

The letter says the corps wants the exemption to prevent what it calls inappropriate delays to the project because of the ongoing lawsuit.

Boxer heads the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

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