Read “SPA should extend its fair-study criteria to cruise terminal” in today’s P&C-

Read “SPA should extend its fair-study criteria to cruise terminal”
a commentary by Randy Pelzer in today’s P&C.

SPA should extend its fair-study criteria to cruise terminal
Post and Courier, December 28, 2011, Commentary

The State Ports Authority is campaigning for the federal government to study the relative merits of all Southeastern ports (particularly Charleston vs. Savannah) regarding post-Panamax dredging. Yet the SPA has conducted no such study in choosing the site for a new cruise terminal in Charleston.

Instead of studying all six area terminals to determine the economic and environmental impacts of a passenger terminal, the SPA effectively disregarded all but Union Pier. That site defies common logic:

1) It goes against the normal practice of building modern cruise terminals away from residential areas;

2) It ignores damage to human health, property, quality of life and heritage tourism as addressed publicly by doctors, residents and the hotel and real estate industries.

The SPA is correct that there should be a merit-based study by the federal government to determine the best site for dredging. But the SPA should practice what it preaches.

The SPA also has challenged the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s nod to Georgia’s dredging plan on the grounds that it doesn’t protect fish sufficiently. However, the SPA has refused to protect Charlestonians from air pollution from docked cruise ships. Shore power works and costs a few million dollars.

The neighborhood associations (Ansonborough and Charlestowne) most impacted by traffic congestion, soot, noise and skyline impairment by cruise ships have asked for a merit-based study and steps to mitigate the negative environmental impact of cruise operations. If such a study makes sense for dredging, it makes sense for the cruise terminal.

Why didn’t the SPA consider the northern end of the Columbus Street Terminal (CST) near the Ravenel bridge as a site? It is farther from densely populated and visited areas. In our opinion, a merit-based study of CST would show:

1) All waterfront and tourism jobs would be preserved and two times more jobs created and tax revenues collected from redeveloping the entire Union Pier site at its highest and best use, and redeveloping depressed property near the Morrison Drive entrance to CST;

2) A cruise terminal and large warehouse on about 10 percent of CST’s 155 acres would not impede cargo operations;

3) SPA’s core cargo operations would not be affected. It operates at only 50 percent of its container capacity in Charleston and has the ability to expand that capacity by 50 percent upon completion of the old Navy base terminal;

4) Greater financial exposure would be risked by devoting the valuable Union Pier site to a one-use cruise facility than locating it at CST where it could be reused for cargo. Just this year Carnival abandoned Mobile and San Diego soon after expensive cruise terminals were built; and just this month, Carnival dropped cruises to Bermuda with little notice.

A study of cruise sites could start with the forthcoming study commissioned by the Historic Charleston Foundation to measure objectively community costs and benefits related to cruises.

Legislators representing the historic district (Sen. Chip Campsen and Rep. Chip Limehouse), and preservation and conservation organizations have reasonably asked the SPA to study alternative terminal sites and to impose legal limitations on cruise operations in the historic district.

A merit-based study is right for dredging issue. And it is right for the SPA cruise terminal.

Randy Pelzer
Charlestowne Neighborhood Association Cruise Ship Task Force
Broad Street


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