Archive for August 2015

See the mayoral candidates’ responses to the Coastal Conservation League’s question about “cruise control.”

See the mayoral candidates’ responses to the Coastal Conservation League’s question about “cruise control.” Stavrinakis: Stavrinakis declined the League’s invitation to participate in the one-hour interview.

Ginny Deerin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70wbkvV5Zto

William Dudley Gregorie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mh-3c5QgQhc

Toby Smith: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qskM84z6cI4

John Tecklenburg: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kl1C3W27-EY

Paul Tinkler: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imMhK0i5124

Maurice Washington: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPmbfFZXfBM

Army Corps allows 30-day extension in Charleston cruise terminal permit process

The Army Corps of Engineers is giving the public more time to comment on a proposed cruise ship terminal at Union Pier in Charleston, extending the deadline by a month to Sept. 23.

The comment period had been set to expire Monday.

Sean McBride, an Army Corps spokesman, said the federal agency’s decision is “in response to people interested in the entire package” of cruise ship terminal documents.

“We have received a number of written comments that describe ongoing concerns associated with existing cruise operations and express concerns about continuing cruise operations” at Union Pier, the Army Corps’ updated public notice states. McBride said the agency has received between 50 and 60 written comments.

The State Ports Authority, which wants to build the $35 million terminal, last month submitted about 40,000 pages of documents along with its application for a construction permit. That permit has to be approved by state and federal officials because it involves adding clusters of pilings beneath an existing wharf along the Cooper River.

Blan Holman, a lawyer representing opponents of the terminal, said the SPA had tried to thwart efforts to stop the project by dumping “disorganized material on the public” and expecting them to be able to “get through that in 30 days.”

“This was done in response to the Corps’ requests for specific information, but SPA gave them a giant, confused pile of emails, legal filings, reports, questionnaires and media stories from the past,” said Holman, with the Southern Environmental Law Center. “It’s not a good sign for moving the dialogue forward quickly and positively.”

SPA spokeswoman Erin Dhand said the agency “defers to the Corps of Engineers on procedural matters related to their permitting process.”

She added that the SPA is “confident that we will ultimately receive permission to move forward with the new cruise terminal on Union Pier.”

In its updated public notice for the project, the Army Corps notes that “a number of comments received to date have requested additional time to provide comments … including on the (SPA’s) background documents.” The notice states that the Army Corps believes “the public’s review of this documentation is unnecessary” because the 15-page application contains “sufficient information to give a clear understanding of the nature and magnitude” of the proposal.

The SPA’s previous permit application was tossed out by a federal judge in 2013 because the proposal did not consider the terminal’s impact on the city’s Historic District.

A separate lawsuit over a state permit is pending, with final briefings submitted to the state’s Court of Appeals. No hearing date has been scheduled in that case. A state Administrative Law Court judge previously ruled that residents and environmentalists lacked legal standing to oppose the state permit.

First proposed five years ago, the terminal would replace a 42-year-old facility used mostly by Carnival Cruise Lines and its 2,056-passenger Fantasy. Carnival will replace that ship in February with the Ecstasy, which has newer amenities but the same passenger capacity.

The permits would allow five additional clusters of pilings beneath an old Union Pier warehouse that will be renovated as a new terminal north of the existing building. The SPA says the new site won’t affect historic properties and will reduce traffic because currently closed streets would be open for public use. Limited outdoor air testing at Union Pier shows no pollution above federal guidelines, even when a cruise ship is in port.

Cruise supporters have said the industry is an important part of the Lowcountry’s larger tourism economy and a source of jobs.

Opponents say they don’t want to ban all cruise ships but want the authority to consider a site at the Columbus Street Terminal, which is farther north from the Historic District, for the new passenger terminal. SPA chief executive Jim Newsome has said there is no room at that property, which is used primarily to export BMW vehicles.

Newsome has said the SPA does not plan to exceed a voluntary cap of 104 cruise ship visits annually, and no ship larger than 3,500-passenger capacity. There were 189,050 cruise ship passengers at the Port of Charleston during the most recent fiscal year, which ended June 30. That was a 1.8 percent decline from the previous year.

Reach David Wren at 937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_

 

**The State Ports Authority is making available DVDs containing the 40,000 pages of documentation submitted to the Army Corps of Engineers in support of plans to build a new cruise terminal at Union Pier. Requests for the information should be submitted to Patrick Moore at pmoore@scspa.com