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      Conference set to settle Savannah dredging suits

      CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) -- A federal judge has scheduled a hearing to settle lawsuits challenging the $650 million deepening of the Savannah River shipping channel leading to Georgia's ports.

      U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel is set to hold that hearing in Charleston on Wednesday.

      Environmental groups and a South Carolina agency sued last year, contending deepening the 32-mile shipping channel will dredge toxic cadmium that will be put on the South Carolina side of the river.

      Under a tentative settlement, the Army Corps of Engineers would have to provide more mitigation. Also, the Georgia Ports Authority will provide more than $25 million for conservation work and transfer 2,000 acres of marsh to South Carolina.

      The Georgia ports want the shipping channel deepened so the river can handle a new generation of larger container ships.

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