Monday, August 1, 2016 In The News · News · Relevant Articles

Appeals court narrows dates for Charleston cruise ship terminal hearing

by Andy Hollis

From the Post & Courier‘s David Wren: Appeals court narrows dates for Charleston cruise ship terminal hearing

After months of delays, the state Court of Appeals has set a date — actually two of them — to hear arguments in a case that will determine whether the State Ports Authority gets one of the permits it needs to build a new cruise ship terminal near Charleston’s Historic District.

Lawyers from all sides said they have no conflicts that would keep them from attending a hearing on either Nov. 9 or Nov. 17, two dates the appeals court has set aside to hear arguments in the case. The court will choose one of those two dates at a later time.

This is the eighth, and apparently final, time the court has tried to schedule the case. The previous delays primarily have been because of conflicts that lawyers on both sides have had keeping them from attending the proceeding in Columbia.

A half-dozen environmental and historic preservation groups are appealing an administrative law judge’s ruling in 2014 that determined they don’t have standing to object to a state-issued construction permit for the project at the SPA’s Union Pier Terminal.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control granted a permit in 2012 that would let the ports authority place five additional clusters of support pilings beneath an old warehouse at the north end of the property. The maritime agency wants to invest about $35 million at the site to replace a nearby, early 1970s-era building used mostly by Carnival Cruise Lines.

The SPA also needs a federal permit to proceed with the project. The Army Corps of Engineers is reviewing an application for that permit. The federal agency held a public hearing on the permit in April, with a majority of those speaking and submitting written comments saying they are opposed to the project.

Army Corps spokesman Sean McBride said the agency continues to review the permit application.

In addition to a new terminal, the project would include a loading dock, parking areas, rain canopies, security fences and other items to support cruise ship operations.

Cruise ship supporters say the industry is an important part of the tourism economy and a source of jobs. The SPA has said a new terminal would improve traffic patterns and allow nearby streets to stay open during embarkation and debarkation days.

Local environmental and historic preservation groups say a new terminal would threaten the unique character of the Historic District and have negative impacts on the community, such as added congestion and pollution.

The SPA first proposed the new terminal in 2010, the same year Carnival Cruise Lines based its 2,056-passenger Fantasy cruise ship in Charleston. The Ecstasy cruise ship replaced the Fantasy this year.

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