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The effect of one car

Sanders Clyde School is concerned for their kids’ safety, so they encourage cars not to idle. Encouraging that the cruise ship idling in our harbor equates to (The sulpher dioxide equivalent of tens of thousands of mac trucks…)
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Heard it through the grapevine, how much longer til we plug in?

Ship to shore

A local group that’s pushing cruise ships to turn off their engines and switch to shoreside power while they’re tied up in downtown Charleston is looking for a surge of support over the next few weeks.

Charleston Communities for Cruise Control has designated February as “Shore Power Now” month.

The group says there’s mounting evidence that the use of shoreside power would reduce pollution from cruise ships.

The move comes as state Reps. Jim Merrill and Leon Stavrinakis plan to authorize up to $5 million to install the necessary equipment at the State Ports Authority’s Union Pier Terminal.

The SPA has not endorsed the kind of shorepower the lawmakers are proposing to fund, but it has said there are other technologies that could be used at a new passenger facility it plans to build to the north of its existing structure.

Over? Cruise ship fight isn’t over until we say it is

Over? Cruise ship fight isn’t over until we say it is

by, Brian Hicks, The Post and Courier

The state Supreme Court was pretty dismissive to the “cruise control” crowd last month.

For three years, downtown residents, preservationists and conservationists have tried to put limits on Carnival Cruise Lines’ business and stop the State Ports Authority’s plan to build a new terminal in their back yard.

They’ve been passionate, they’ve been tenacious, they’ve even been flying ugly flags from their downtown homes in protest.

And after all that, South Carolina’s high court dismissed their lawsuit as if it was an afternoon soap opera the justices were embarrassed to admit they’d tuned into.

In fact, they were sort of condescending.

“All members of the public suffer from and are inconvenienced by traffic congestion, pollution, noises and obstructed view, and (p)laintiffs have not alleged they suffer these harms in any personal, individual way,” the ruling read.

Ouch. If that wasn’t dismissive enough, Mayor Joe Riley called the lawsuit “almost laughable” from the start.

Now, he has a point about some of the sillier concerns (“view shed,” indeed), but the reasonable folks involved in this thing aren’t laughing.

And they aren’t finished either.

Pick your battle

Last week, while everyone else was stripping the grocery stores of bread and milk, a group of concerned residents got together to talk about their next steps in the war on cruise ships.

They are on the ropes, no doubt.

The Supreme Court dismissed the suit on a technicality, claiming the groups that filed didn’t have standing. It was something of a dodge. The merits of the case didn’t get a ruling – but they did get criticized a bit in the 11-page decision.

At one point, the justices say the lawsuit “fails to make factual allegations sufficient” to prove zoning is being violated. They mention that they’d already dismissed the argument that the Fantasy’s smokestack violates the city’s sign ordinance.

OK, you’ve got to admit that one was a stretch.

But the court made it clear that individuals could come back and file the same suit, make the same arguments and claim personal damages.

And you can bet your boarding pass that is exactly what some of these folks will do.

This is not over by a long shot. The groups are still challenging the state permitting process, and are watching to see what the Army Corps of Engineers does next on federal permitting, which could lead them to refile that suit.

All that stuff is pretty technical, and not very sexy. It could be effective, though.

But the real nuisance for the city, the port and Carnival will be the next suit – especially if it focuses on pollution.

Shore side solution?

Some folks have not done the cause any favors by complaining about the class of tourists oozing out of the Fantasy.

That has allowed the other side to dismiss all the critics as a bunch of snobs, and that’s not the case.

Truth is, even some of the cruise control folks cringe when they hear that stuff, as they should – because some people are snobs. Well, they’d better get used to tourists. In case they hadn’t heard, we are the best tourist town in the Milky Way Galaxy.

Many of these cruise control advocates are reasonable folks just looking for a little concession. The city, the port and cruise line have felt no compulsion to compromise, however, because they know some people will never be satisfied.

Some people just want the ships gone, period. And that’s not going to happen.

But there is some hope for concerned citizens. State Reps. Jim Merrill and Leon Stavrinakis are pushing for the state to install shore side power capabilities at SPA docks. That could cut down on the group’s most legitimate concern: pollution.

There will always be tourists here, and there will always be traffic. But if downtown residents can prove there is also air pollution, shore side power would be a huge win.

Maybe the two sides could actually find some – gasp – compromise.

And we could finally quit talking about the Un-Loved Boat.

Santa Barbara taking a cue from Charleston?

Check out this interesting article where Santa Barbara looks to Charleston for advice on the increase in cruise ships calling upon their port:

Cruise Control? Thirty ships slated to call on Santa Barbara in 2014
http://www.pacbiztimes.com/2014/01/31/cruise-control-thirty-ships-slated-to-call-on-santa-barbara-in-2014/

Letters to the Editor, Thursday, Jan. 30

Stop the ships

Since the Preservation Society of Charleston and its members have no standing before the court to try to regulate cruise ships, that leaves it up to those who certainly do have a standing: we the people who live here.

Those of us who understand the damage the ships are doing and will do to our beloved city should gather together as individuals, find a lawyer and re-file in our individual names.

Passengers who want to visit Charleston could take a land taxi (jobs) or a water taxi (more jobs) to Charleston. And anybody who doesn’t want to come to Charleston would be welcomed by Mount Pleasant restaurants and other businesses (more jobs) and especially the Yorktown. The Yorktown would benefit immeasurably (even more jobs?).

Docking the ships near the Yorktown in Mount Pleasant would be a win-win for everyone. Why don’t we just do it?

Sue Johnson
Meeting Street
Charleston

Supreme Court Leaves Legality of Cruise Ship Harms in Historic Charleston Unanswered

Press statement from the Southern Environmental Law Center
For Immediate Release: January 22, 2014
Contact: Blan Holman, attorney, SELC, 919-302-6819 (cell)

Supreme Court Leaves Legality of Cruise Ship Harms in Historic Charleston Unanswered

CHARLESTON, S.C.–The South Carolina Supreme Court today left open the question of whether the harms caused by Carnival’s cruise operation in historic Charleston are legal, instead ruling that a case challenging their legality must be brought by individual property owners rather than neighborhood associations and other groups. The crucial questions for Charleston – whether Carnival’s operation is a nuisance that could be cleaned up and whether an international cruise corporation is exempt from local and state laws – remain unresolved.
“We’re disappointed that after two years the Court refused to pass on the legality of Carnival’s operation and instead dismissed the case on a legal technicality that the claims should have been brought by individual property owners rather than neighborhood associations and other groups,” said Blan Holman, the Southern Environmental Law Center attorney who represented the plaintiff groups in the lawsuit. “If the upshot of the order is that individual property owners have to file separate lawsuits, then resolving the underlying legal merits will have gotten more cumbersome and resource intensive for everyone.”
Today’s court ruling did not address whether Carnival’s home basing operation complies with local ordinances, or whether it is a nuisance that interferes with the property rights of neighboring home owners, as the plaintiffs alleged. The Court also did not rule that the kinds of injuries caused by Carnival cannot support a suit – just that the level of injury alleged was too widespread and general.
Holman said the plaintiff groups – the Preservation Society of Charleston, Coastal Conservation League, Historic Ansonborough Neighborhood Association, and Charlestowne Neighborhood Association – will review their options in light of the ruling. Their statements to the court still stand, including affidavits of very specific injuries that the court did not address. Individual property owners have expressed interest in refiling the nuisance case.
The case ruled on today by the court is one of three challenges brought by the nonprofit law center on behalf of some of the same clients. In a challenge to the federal permit for a proposed cruise ship terminal in downtown Charleston capable of home basing an even larger ship than based there now. A federal court ruled last September that the groups had standing and that the permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was unlawfully issued. The U.S. Department of Justice attorneys subsequently abandoned its appeal of that decision. Now the Army Corps is starting its reconsideration of the terminal proposal anew.
Groups also challenged state permit for the proposed new terminal in South Carolina Administrative Law Court.
The groups contesting these permits have asked for public consideration of options such as
shore-side power to reduce diesels soot or pollution from the cruise ships, alternative terminal
configurations that minimize disruption to the nearby national Historic District, and standards on
the size and frequency of visits by home-based cruise ships to ensure growth in scale with
historic Charleston.

###

About the Southern Environmental Law Center
The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment
of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC’s team of
nearly 60 legal and policy experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water
quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use. www.SouthernEnvironment.org

Maintain pressure on cruise pollution

Posted: Friday, January 24, 2014 12:01 a.m.

Four years ago this month, hundreds of people gathered for a forum to address Charleston’s “delicate balance” between livability and tourism. Cruise ships emerged as a key concern because of the emissions, crowding and noise they create, and the ships’ oversized profiles.

Since then, a stalwart segment of the community has pushed for reasonable limits on the cruise industry but has achieved little traction with elected officials.

Until now.

State Reps. Jim Merrill and Leon Stavrinakis last week announced their plan to authorize up to $5 million for the State Ports Authority to install plug-in power for cruise ships idling at the dock. The move adds momentum to a debate that needs to be resolved.

And while the S.C. Supreme Court Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit filed against Carnival Cruise Lines, the defeat isn’t as devastating as the cruise line and port have insisted.

Indeed, the ruling did not even consider the substance of the lawsuit, which charged that the Fantasy is injurious to the people of Charleston because of the emissions, noise and congestion it creates. Rather, the case was dismissed on a technicality

And that certainly will not deter advocates of enforceable regulations for cruise ships from continuing to push their case.

The Legislature, when it considers the proposal presented by Mr. Stavrinakis and Mr. Merrill, needs to look beyond this court decision and focus on the very real problems caused by cruise ships that run engines the entire time they are at dock, emitting particulates that are bad for the environment and for people’s health. They will get confirmation from both local and state medical associations who are on record lamenting emissions for medical reasons.

The SPA is not interested in providing shoreside power, saying better technology is expected to be forthcoming. Charleston Mayor Joe Riley and City Council have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the SPA.

The move by Mr. Merrill, R-Charleston, and Mr. Stavrinakis, D-Charleston, is an indication that momentum is finally shifting in the right direction. At last, an elected body might actually consider a solution to the most serious cruise issue affecting Charleston residents.

It is a pity, however, that the SPA hasn’t stepped up to do the right thing as have other ports around the country, sharing the expense of upfitting for shore power with utilities, local municipalities and cruise lines.

Relying on a state budget allocation has more than its share of problems. The SPA’s lack of interest in plug-in power is certain to discourage legislative support for the proposal. So will the SPA’s rather incredible assertion that it could use the funding elsewhere. Indeed, an SPA statement said, “We anticipate utilizing the industry’s most modern and efficient technologies at the new passenger terminal at Union Pier and applying these proposed funds, if appropriated, to implement these practices.”

No mention of plug-in shore power. Of course, the Legislature could designate an allocation specifically for shoreside power.

Even the Supreme Court ruling concedes that there’s a problem: “In short, these allegations are simply complaints about inconveniences suffered broadly by all persons residing in or passing through the City of  Charleston.”

Mayor Riley, who has aligned the city with the SPA and Carnival from the start, called the recently dismissed lawsuit “almost laughable.”

But to many of his constituents it is a crying shame that the mayor and council are so cavalier about cruise ship problems – including emissions and the potential hazard they pose to the health of people living, working and visiting Charleston.

The cruise ship debate is not over by any means. Some individuals represented by groups in the now-dismissed lawsuit are interested in filing lawsuits about, among other things, their exposure to particulate emissions.

Further, the city of Charleston is scheduled to begin revisiting and possibly updating its tourism management plan. This is a good opportunity for those people who object to the various problems caused by cruise ships to make their case to their elected council representatives.

And it is a good time for officials to start paying attention – and not dismiss residents’ very real concerns as somehow “almost laughable.”

http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20140124/PC1002/140129705/1021/maintain-pressure-on-cruise-pollution

Our perseverance is apparently being heard at State levels

Proposed legislation to bring shore-side power to Charleston cruise terminal

by Tyrone Richardson, Post and Courier

Cruise ships docked in Charleston soon could be plugging into a shoreside power outlet, a welcome development for groups that have complained about fumes from the idling vessels.

State Reps. Jim Merrill and Leon Stavrinakis announced a plan Friday to authorize up to $5 million to install the necessary equipment at the State Ports Authority passenger terminal at Union Pier.

Merrill, R-Charleston, and Stavrinakis, D-Charleston, both serve on the House Ways and Means Committee. They expect their proposal to be included in this year’s budget.

“With this new technology, Charleston will be a national leader in both economic growth and environmental innovation,” Stavrinakis said in a statement. “Shoreside power will ultimately bring more tourism dollars to Charleston while cleaning up our air at the same time.”

Shoreside power has been mentioned as one way to bring together the feuding sides in a long-running dispute about the future of the cruise industry in Charleston.

Merrill said the shoreside power could ease the tensions.

“It definitely should take away one concern that is expressed, and what we want to do is find a solution,” he said. “We see the ports authority’s position of requiring shore power on every ship puts them at an economical disadvantage, and it doesn’t work on all ships, but for those that have it, this gives them the option.”

The SPA applauded the efforts by Merrill and Stavrinakis on Friday, but it stopped short of fully endorsing shoreside power for cruise ships.

“While we understand that shoreside power has been the focus of conversations to date, the industry is also pursuing other more modern technologies that provide equal or greater benefits,” the maritime agency said in a statement. “We anticipate utilizing the industry’s most modern and efficient technologies at the new passenger terminal at Union Pier and applying these proposed funds, if appropriated, to implement these practices.”

Environmentalists and neighborhood groups have complained about pollution in the historic district coming from cruise ships idling their engines at Union Pier. Most complaints target the Carnival Fantasy, which is based in Charleston year round.

On Friday, the groups said they support what the lawmakers are proposing.

“We commend this effort for attempting to address the serious health and environmental effects of cruise ship diesel soot, and hope efforts are made to explore the other means of reducing cruise impacts on the historic peninsula,” said Carrie Agnew, executive director of the Charleston Communities for Cruise Control. “We have always and continue to support shore power at the new terminal, wherever it is ultimately built.”

Dana Beach, executive director of the Coastal Conservation League, said it would be “a huge step forward.”

“We have said consistently that shore-side power is the only way we can completely protect the health of residents from the emissions from cruise ships,” Beach said Friday.

Last year, his Charleston-based group released a study that concluded hooking a cruise ship to shoreside power source would cut toxic emissions by 19 percent to 90 percent, depending on the type of fuel the vessel burns.

The SPA took a close look at shoreside power while planning a new $35 million cruise terminal it wants to open at Union Pier. It concluded it was too costly.

In 2011, the SPA estimated it would have invest $5.6 million to provide shoreside power,. Carnival Cruise Lines would have to spend about another $1.5 million to retrofit the Fantasy, the cruise ship that calls on Charleston most often.

The SPA wants to redevelop a warehouse at the north end of Union Pier to replace its current cruise terminal at the south end of the terminal. The new building could handle larger ships and more passengers.

Lawsuits have stalled those plans.

In addition to shoreside power, groups like Charleston Communities for Cruise Control and the Coastal Conservation League have argued for limits on ship visits and passengers.

Ports of contention

Ports of contention
By Tom Stieghorst
Ports of contentionA week before the Costa Concordia ran aground in January 2012, a group of activists in Venice formed a committee to push back against the growing bulk of cruise ships there.

At first overshadowed by the drama of the Concordia accident, the group began to hold meetings, hang banners and organize demonstrations to call attention to its cause.

Among other things, the group objected to the disparity between the 12- to 15-story elevation of many cruise ships and the three- to five-story scale of the historical lagoon city.

Aided in no small part by the Concordia fallout, the Comitato No Grandi Navi struck paydirt in November, when Italy’s national government placed limits on larger cruise ships in Venice, starting this month.

While praising the move, committee spokesman Silvio Testa told the Corriere del Veneto newspaper that if it was a “sweetener” to get the group to relent, activists would not be satisfied as long as the big ships are still docking anywhere inside the lagoon.

“The battle certainly doesn’t stop, and continues,” Testa said.

Similar tussles are taking place in other cruise ports as the scale of cruise ships continues to grow. Particularly in dense, historical ports with varied sources of tourism, the cruise industry is taking flak from organized groups opposed to expansion.

In Key West, residents recently rejected a proposed widening of the cruise channel that would have eased access for larger ships. And in Charleston, S.C., preservationists have gone to court to block plans for a more modern downtown terminal.

The three cities have even combined forces, signing a joint resolution that outlines their objections to cruise tourism and their intent to work together on an international level.

“I’ve heard from Alaska, from Australia, from South America,” said Carrie Agnew, executive director of Charleston Communities for Cruise Control. “There are a lot of places that are suffering the same effects.”

In response, cruise officials have pointed to the economic benefits they bring to port cities. They also say that they want to work cooperatively to resolve the issues in Venice and elsewhere.

But cruise officials are also said to be looking at alternatives to these ports for growth, a historical pattern whenever cruise lines have found themselves crosswise with unhappy destinations.

The angst has emerged as more and bigger ships have floated out of Europe’s shipyards. Ports such as Venice can sometimes host a dozen cruise ships in a weekend, and places like Charleston are now homeports where they were once barely ports of call.

The Sea Dream I and other ships in Venice.In a quest for economies of scale, ships went supersize. Royal Caribbean International’s Allure of the Seas, today’s size king at 225,000 gross tons, takes up more than three times the volume of Royal’s Sovereign of the Seas, which less than 30 years ago was the world’s biggest cruise ship.

The larger ships can discharge thousands of passengers at a time, and several at once can combine to flood the sidewalks and alleys of towns with narrow street grids.

In Charleston, Agnew said the discomfort started in 2010 when Carnival Cruise Lines decided to homeport the Fantasy there.

“Charleston is a very small, very historic city,” Agnew said. “Now you have 2,000 people coming and going in a day, with all the purveyors and provisions. You have a lot of stuff happening in the heart of the historic district.”

The city’s old terminal is not well sited, forcing buses through a maze of tight turns and barriers. So Charleston’s mayor proposed a new, more spacious site in the district in a renovated warehouse.

Preservationists sued, and the project remains tied up in litigation.

Agnew said the worry is that a renovated terminal will bring more or bigger ships and further crowding, changing the charm and the “living historic city” that other tourists desire.

Agnew cites letters, such as one from a couple who frequent Charleston annually who said it took them 40 minutes longer to get to their hotel and upon arrival found their view blocked by a ship.

“There’s nothing wrong with cruise passengers, but they want to go to the Bahamas,” Agnew said. “We’re worried about losing people who do want to come to Charleston.”

That is also a theme in Key West, the quirky island that once declared itself the Conch Republic and tried to secede from the rest of the country. Long a naval base and a shrimping town, it has become dependent on tourism in recent years.

“We understand that tourism is our bread and butter,” said Jolly Benson, head of the Key West Committee for Responsible Tourism. “But we want to make sure that the tourism we do attract is repeat business.

“We have people who have been coming back every winter for 35 years,” Benson said. “And these people say, ‘You know, I don’t go downtown when there’s two ships in town.'”

Unlike Charleston, Key West is not a homeport. But it hosted about 330 ship calls this year and is a regular stop on both eastern and western Caribbean itineraries out of South Florida.

The historical district of Key West, with a Carnival ship in the background.Planners say the current 300-foot channel leading into the harbor inhibits the deployment of newer, bigger ships. Captains sometimes have to “crab” through the channel, steering at a 15-degree angle to wind and currents, a maneuver that pushes them close to the channel’s edges.

One solution is to widen part of the channel to 450 feet. A city bid to seek a U.S. Army Corps of Engineering feasibility study was opposed by 74% of Key West’s 25,000 residents when put to a referendum in October.

Quality-of-life issues and a reluctance to assume Key West’s part of the project’s bond debt were factors, Benson said, but perhaps most important were concerns about the project’s environmental impact.

The channel lies in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, home to protected species of coral and abundant sea life. The argument that silt from the project would harm the environment resonated with many who depend on fishing, diving or boating for a living, Benson said.

Environmental damage is also an issue propelling the anti-cruise forces in Venice, where the city’s 1,200-year-old foundations are slowly sinking. Activists claim that water displaced from ships traveling the Giudecca Canal past Piazza San Marco on the way to the Venezia Terminal Passeggeri accelerates the erosion of building foundations.

Air pollution, another concern frequently cited, is a problem that some industry officials have acknowledged.

And tourism itself has been cast as a kind of people pollution, as nearly 20 million visitors each year flood the city of 58,000 residents. Last year, about 1.7 million visitors arrived by ship.

The No Grandi Navi (No Big Ships) committee conducted its campaign against the cruise industry in classic European fashion. Where Key West held a referendum and Charleston went to court, No Grandi Navi held street protests, or in this case, canal protests.

Activists with bullhorns shouted insults at passing ships. They organized a small-boat blockade, and in September about 50 wetsuited protesters dove into the Giudecca Canal, bobbing around like seals and blocking the passage of a dozen cruise ships.

The tactics apparently swayed Italian officials, who on Nov. 5 issued an order that reduces the number of ships over 40,000 gross tons that can ply the Giudecca route by 20% and bans ships above 96,000 gross tons from the canal entirely by next November.

The industry publicly pledged cooperation. In a statement, CLIA Europe said it viewed the decision as a positive step by the Italian government to find a sustainable and long-term solution for the city. “This goal is shared by the cruise industry,” it said.

However, in the past, cruise lines have frequently responded to unfavorable local developments by redeploying ships. That happened in Alaska in 2006 after cruise opponents enacted a $46 head tax to slow the influx of passengers into small Alaska towns.

Cruise lines moved some ships elsewhere, citing reduced demand. In 2010, the tax was partly rolled back, laying the groundwork for a rebound.

A wall poster in Venice last summer advocated Big Ships Out of the Lagoon.There are alternatives to Venice in the Adriatic, said Filippo Olivetti, managing director of the Bassani Group, which provides cruise services and shore excursions in Venice.

“We know that several cruise lines are looking to Ravenna and Trieste [in northeastern Italy] as an option to homeport,” Olivetti said, adding that Pullmantur has successfully used Ravenna in the past.

The industry’s most powerful argument against limits on bigger ships is that they contribute revenue and jobs to the local economy. Olivetti said that studies commissioned by the Cruise Venice Committee, a group that supports the industry’s growth, estimate that 2,500 jobs will be lost as a result of the new limits.

He said the ban on ships larger than 96,000 gross tons would result in a 60% decline in passengers in 2015, to about 700,000, unless they are replaced by smaller ships or an alternative is found.

“My company is going to be very affected by this tonnage limit,” Olivetti said.

In Key West, too, there have been warnings that the cruise industry could go elsewhere if they have no chance to grow. A Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) report issued in November asserts that cruise lines now cannot count on putting modernized ships there and that if Cuba should open to cruise calls, the Florida port would lose business.

“It is not an exaggeration to say that, without capital investments, Key West’s future as a cruise port of call is seriously in question,” the report stated.

Benson said the report amounts to fear mongering, and he said that even as it is, the channel is adequate for all but a handful of ships.

The economic argument about cruise ships in Key West, as elsewhere, boils down to whether the infusion of cash and other benefits cruise passengers contribute to the local economy outweigh the costs.

Various sources cite daily spending by cruise guests of anywhere from $32 to $84, with the FDOT study citing a CLIA figure of $123.58. A $10.63-per-passenger docking fee also goes to the port and pier owners.

But 1.6 million guests who come to Key West by other means and stay overnight account for about $900 million of annual spending, according to visitors bureau estimates, compared with about $80 million for cruise guests.

Nearly 814,000 passengers arrived on some 330 ships last year. So while they account for more than a third of the visitors, they represent less than a tenth of the spending, a disparity that has the business community split over their desirability.

A banner by the No Grandi Navi committee.Shops, bars, scooter rental outlets, trolley tours and excursions near the piers tend to support the channel widening, while lodging owners and businesses off of the main drag on Duval Street tend to be opposed.

John Dolan-Heitlinger, a business consultant and head of the Key West Seaport Alliance, a pro-cruise group, said that as a small town, Key West can ill afford to give up tax revenue the cruise ships bring in.

“Everybody in town benefits from cruise ships in one way or another,” he said. “As that income is reduced, the city either has to eliminate services or find other sources of funding, typically taxes and fees.”

Rudy Molinet, owner of Marquis Properties Realty, one of the top residential brokerages in Key West, said that when several ships are docked at once, the 10-square-block historical district is overrun.

“There are people who directly benefit, but the people who run the bed-and-breakfast inns and the restaurants are not so for it,” he said.

With so much hanging in the balance on both sides, many attempts at compromise are arising.

One solution for historical cities that still want cruise tourism growth is to move the cruise piers to another part of town. A real estate expert in Charleston has proposed an embarkation terminal at the former Navy shipyard north of the historical district.

In Venice, planners are working on a scheme to dredge an alternate channel to the Venezia Terminal Passeggeri that would let big ships avoid the Giudecca Canal. At the same time, the mayor has suggested creating a new cruise ship dock at Marghara, an industrial port on the Italian mainland.

There are no such plans yet in Key West. As the cruise industry grows, some ports might not be able to grow in parallel, observed Benson, and he’s fine with that.

“We have no problem with the cruise lines that are coming in now,” he said. “We realize we’re at a sustainable level. If we try to go much beyond that, we’re going to see a backlash in other tourism-related events. We want to make sure we keep the balance.”

Follow Tom Stieghorst on Twitter @tstravelweekly.

Cruise terminal needs public input

Now there’s a thought… Let the public have input on what is done with their dollars on their turf… Should be interesting to see what transpires!

Click here to read the article from Post and Courier

In seeking approval for the State Ports Authority’s plan to convert a rusting shed into a large, new cruise ship terminal on the Cooper River, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers indicated to federal authorities that the project was essentially driving five pilings and doing some maintenance to the existing building.

The argument didn’t stand up in District Court, and now the Corps and the SPA have conceded that they are going to have to apply anew.

This is a good opportunity for them to remove the wraps and show the public as well as the feds that the project will not harm the environment or the health of people who live and work nearby.

Some critics, who are alarmed by the SPA’s refusal to submit to reasonable standards regarding the cruise ship industry here, fear the Corps will try for another shortcut that would bypass public hearings.

That would be a mistake. District Judge Richard Gergel didn’t mince words in his September order. He said the Corps gave the issue “a bum’s rush” and failed to show that it met standards required by the National Environmental Protection Act and the National Health Protection Act.

The Corps should be eager to save face after such an embarrassing rebuke. A good way to do that would be to take the high road – a process that allows the public to ask questions and have input into the SPA project.

Realistically, that conversation would probably be – and should be – broad. It could include how the environment would be affected – perhaps how adding plug-in power to the dock would reduce emissions that threaten people’s health.

But a discussion would also likely touch on how traffic, the historic district, heritage tourism and the economy would be affected when a new cruise ship terminal is complete.

It could include a discussion of the best site for a terminal – both where the SPA wants to it to be and alternative locations, as well.

The process would take time for the SPA to prepare for and execute. And such debates are sure to be contentious. But they could also be immensely helpful.

For one thing, they could help the SPA pursue the best plan possible. Also, an open and frank conversation could restore some of the public trust, which has been shaken by the SPA’s apparent disregard for the public’s concerns.

Regardless of what side of the controversial cruise ship issue they stand on, people should find it unacceptable for public officials to give “a bum’s rush” to issues regarding the health and environment of the area. Those who want to see the terminal built should be confident that the SPA’s case is strong enough to meet permit requirements and gain public support.

And the process should be transparent. It does, after all, involve public money and public land. And the cruise ship business does make a difference to the entire area.

So far, the State Ports Authority has refused to stipulate legally how it will limit the size and number of cruise ships here. Instead, it has asked the public to trust that it will do the right thing.

Until the cruise terminal discussion is open and forthright, that trust is going to be elusive.

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