Posts Tagged jay’s blog

CHS | That proposed Cruise Terminal – Where are we now?

Two years ago, United States District Court Judge Richard Gergel handed the cruise terminal opponents their first victory, tossing the SPA’s federal permit to build a proposed $35 million terminal at Union Pier and blasting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for failing to adequately review the project’s effects on the area saying, “I think you did an end run. You gave this permit a bum’s rush.”

This time around, the Corps promises a thorough job.

The battle lines are being drawn. At the first “consultation process” hearing on October 22, the APE, or “Area of Potential Effects,” became the focus. Participants responded to a series of questions about the impacts on Charleston’s buildings on the National Historic Register and its National Historic Landmark status.

The SPA argued that the APE must be tightly drawn around the terminal property. “Not so fast,” opponents say. Cars, buses and taxis must travel through the Historic District creating immense traffic just to transport passengers to the terminal; the smog, soot and noise drifts well beyond the terminal compromising homes and human health; and cruise passengers swarm like ants over the City causing congestion and impacts well beyond the terminal area.

Yet SPA CEO Jim Newsome reiterated his claim that cruise ships are part of Charleston’s history. He said that cruise ships are “maritime commerce,” meaning that passengers aren’t tourists and can’t be regulated. If they visit the Historic District, he asserted, that’s just incidental. The SPA’s contracted study claims that only four to six percent of tourism comes from cruise passengers.

Meanwhile, Mayor Joseph Riley professed that cruise ships are good for Charleston, that redevelopment of the Southern portion of Union Pier would be a boon to the City.

Opponents of these assertions were ready.

Historic Charleston Foundation’s Christopher Cody showed historic photos of ships in the harbor and said “it’s improbable that historically more than a few hundred passengers per day would have used Charleston’s port.” Thousands of cruise passengers, “potentially over 7,000 at a time, represent a new use of the harbor and a concentrated intrusion that’s inappropriate for our historic district’s scale and layout. Just because cruise ships are boats doesn’t automatically make them related to our traditions of maritime commerce.”

“We believe the impacts cannot be limited to the fence line of the Port property,” said Kristopher King, Executive Director of The Preservation Society, because the court directed the Corps to “consider both the direct and indirect effects on historic properties within and outside the permit area.” King also cited the SPA’s own Brockington Associates study that admits that “cruise passengers will represent 25-40 percent of vehicular traffic in the Historic District” when those ships are in town.

Interviewed later, King added, “The Corps must consider direct and indirect impacts on the use and character of our National Landmark District consisting mainly of single family dwellings which the SPA’s historic assessment admits may be impacted.”

Other meetings will be scheduled, and we will update you.

 

Written by jwilliams
The Charleston Cruise Control Blog, written by Jay Williams, Jr., published periodically since May, 2011, consists of opinions and discussions about cruise ship tourism. Although Jay is involved with various local organizations, the opinions he expresses are solely his; they do not represent the views of any organization or other individual.  Mr. Williams is an independent blogger/writer. We present these blogs for C4 website visitors as an information source and as an additional way to chronologically follow the debates, commentaries and discussions about cruise tourism in Charleston.

A New Tide of Tourism

Ah, the Tourism Management Plan.  Well, that got slightly derailed when Historic Charleston Foundation decided it could, in spite of the 2014 moratorium, add candlelight tours in February.(1)  Now the plan is beginning to leave the tracks…before it’s released.

Carnival has announced that a second cruise ship will make five visits to Charleston next year.  That’s in addition to calls by the Fantasy, Carnival’s ship that’s already home-ported here.  According to the Post and Courier, “the Carnival Sunshine is a larger ship than the Fantasy, carrying about 1,000 more passengers and crew.”(2)   According to Carnival’s website, The Sunshine “has been doused with an extra dose of fun” to accompany her 3000 passengers and 1040 crew.(3)   One wonders if this extra dose of fun was brought to the attention of the Tourism Management Committee?

There can’t be a trend here, because according to State Ports Authority’s CEO Jim Newsome, the port will maintain its level of fewer than 104 cruise ship departures per year.  Remember that’s one of the voluntary limits that the SC Ports Authority (SPA) agreed to.  Mayor Joseph Riley said recently that there was a signed agreement with the SPA limiting cruise ship tourism.  Except that we don’t know of one.  Perhaps, Mr. Mayor, you could forward that signed agreement to us, and we’ll publish it with our next blog?  But “no worries,” as the kids would say.  Because there was that much-touted City Council resolution  passed in response to cruise ship concerns.  Except that that resolution doesn’t limit anything.  It only requires the SPA to notify the City a year in advance if those voluntary limits of 104 cruise ship visits and a maximum of 3500 passengers per ship would be exceeded.  What a happy coincidence, it turns out, that cruise ship schedules are created a year in advance.  Notification should be no problem; the problem will arise when that notification occurs.

The Post and Courier editorial board is on top of this problem.  Yesterday’s editorial, “More Cruises, More Questions,” asks the penultimate question.  “What might come next? The passenger terminal that the SPA wants to build would accommodate even larger ships.”(4)  Yes, it would. Union Pier is over 1800 feet long—enough to accommodate both the Fantasy and the Sunshine at the same time—although we’ve been promised that two cruise ships would never be in port at the same time.  However, Union Pier also can accommodate the largest ship now afloat.  No worries…

Except that the Panama Canal is being widened and, in anticipation, giant Post-Panamax cargo ships are already entering our port.  Add in that the Chinese middle class, the ideal target for cruise travel, is growing rapidly.  So bigger, wider cruise ships are sure to follow.  And that’s still not the worst problem.  That problem is President Obama’s unilateral gift to the ruthless, despotic Castro brothers—opening American tourism to siphon American dollars to prop up their dictatorship.  If Carnival Cruise Lines wanted a big gift, they got it.   Ironically, one of the Sunshine’s bars is “the already classic Havana Bar.”   So this is the ultimate question—what city do you think will be hosting some of those ships headed for Cuba?   Carnival’s ready, Charleston isn’t.  We’ll soon be “doused with an extra dose of fun.”

And what about those voluntary, unenforceable cruise ship limits?

There’s only one solution.  It’s not just shore power; shore power isn’t going to slow the rising tide of cruise ship tourism.  It’s not a head tax, although money to offset the cost for police, fire and rescue equipment required for every ship visit could really help.  The only permanent solution is to move the proposed cruise terminal away from the Historic Districts and downtown, farther north to the Columbus Street Terminal closer to major highways, so that passengers who are destined for the Bahamas or Cuba don’t overrun and kill what remains of Charleston’s charm and quality of life.   If they want to see and appreciate Charleston’s history and culture, they’re welcome.  But for those cruisers who just want an ice cream and a t-shirt, they certainly don’t need to drive through town and park on valuable waterfront land to get them. Then Union Pier could be sold at a much greater profit to the SPA and prudently developed to provide a breathtaking enhancement to downtown Charleston.

We’re certain the recommendation to move the cruise terminal away from downtown will be a key component of that Tourism Management Plan.

—Jay Williams, Jr
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Written by jwilliams
The Charleston Cruise Control Blog, written by Jay Williams, Jr., published periodically since May, 2011, consists of opinions and discussions about cruise ship tourism. Although Jay is involved with various local organizations, the opinions he expresses are solely his; they do not represent the views of any organization or other individual.  Mr. Williams is an independent blogger/writer. We present these blogs for C4 website visitors as an information source and as an additional way to chronologically follow the debates, commentaries and discussions about cruise tourism in Charleston.

Footnotes/links:

1)  Historic Charleston website – candlelight tours
https://www.historiccharleston.org/Museums.aspx

2)  More container volume, new cruise ship for Port of Charleston – Post and Courier
http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20150316/PC05/150319463

3)  Carnival Sunshine – Carnival website
http://www.carnival.com/cruise-ships/carnival-sunshine.aspx

4)  “More cruises, more questions”  – Post and Courier editorial
http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20150319/PC1002/150319286/1506/more-cruises-more-questions

CHS | A hollow victory at City Council?

Those favoring regulating toxic cruise ship pollution won a hollow victory Tuesday night.   Facing an overflow crowd of concerned citizens, the Charleston City Council passed resolution that “the city supports the actions of the state General Assembly in assuring funding is available for shore power at the new terminal when needed.”(1) [emphasis supplied]   In spite of the 10-2 vote, the fragility of the City Council’s commitment came with the final two words, “when needed,” words that were added in the last moments to obtain majority support.  And without the strong endorsements of Councilmen William Dudley Gregorie and Mike Seekings, even this weakened resolution wouldn’t have gone anywhere.(2,3)

Eliminating the soot, smoke and sulphur dioxide wafting over Charleston caused by cruise ships idling in port is such an obviously good idea, you’d think everyone would be for it.  But they’re not.  According to the Post and Courier, “[Mayor Joe] Riley has said that the city should allow SPA (SC Ports Authority) time to figure out if shoreside power will be needed at the new cruise terminal.”  Really, Mr. Mayor?  They’ve already wasted years; how much time do they need?  And even with the squishy language of the resolution, two Council members, Rodney Williams and Dean C. Riegel, still voted against it.  Reigel said that the SPA’s presentation showed that a resolution would not be necessary since it could limit the agency’s efforts to control emissions.  Councilman Riegal said, “I see no need for a resolution, I think they are doing all the right things.”(1)  If doing nothing is doing all the right things, he’s right.

Jim Newsome, the SPA’s CEO, made that 10-minute presentation before the vote.  He claims that the 25-year-old “Fantasy” will be retrofitted with “scrubbers” that will reduce sulpher dioxide and soot when it goes into dry dock in October, 2015, and the SPA plans to add an air quality monitor to the new terminal.  But even after years of complaints about soot, smoke, and health issues caused by cruise ships, neither has been done, and even the promise that anything will happen is a year and a half away.  Let’s be real: the ancient “Fantasy” isn’t far from the scrap heap, “scrubbers” are a weaker substitute for shoreside power in removing pollutants and particulates, and “scrubbers” on the “Fantasy” won’t stop airborne pollution from other cruise ships calling at Charleston.

We’ve witnessed Carnival’s murky environmental record on the TV news, but do you also sense the SPA’s lack of concern?(4)

Jim Newsome parsed his words when he said there “is no data that cruise ships create a health issue in Charleston.”  Note that prepositional phrase, “in Charleston.”  Because cruise ships do pollute, and there’s lots of data.(5,6,7)  But if that statement didn’t give you a sense of Jim Newsome’s commitment to reduce cruise ship emissions, consider this one: “I think the general thrust is that they [the Council] endorse that we are doing what is best to improve air quality in the harbor and we will see where it goes from there.”

Are you breathing easier?

In 2012, in an op-ed written by Dr. Stephen Schabel of the Charleston County Medical Society, he noted a proposed resolution claiming that the “average cruise ship discharges four times the amount of airborne pollutants, especially sooty particulates, compared to the average cargo ship, thus affecting residents and visitors when ships run their engines continuously…for hours while passengers embark and disembark.”   Dr. Schabel added, “The effects of airborne pollutants have been shown to include increased chronic respiratory and heart diseases and increased cancer risk, especially among dockworkers, merchants and residents closest to the docks” and that “onshore power” reduces “airborne cruise ship pollutants by up to 90%.”(8)

It’s sad that the same City Council that stomped out smoking on the sidewalks around our hospitals has never attempted to regulate far more serious toxic emissions from cruise ships in port–or demand the obvious healthy shore power alternative.

#   #    #

–Jay Williams, 27 Feb 14

 

Written by jwilliams
The Charleston Cruise Control Blog, written by Jay Williams, Jr., published periodically since May, 2011, consists of opinions and discussions about cruise ship tourism. Although Jay is involved with various local organizations, the opinions he expresses are solely his; they do not represent the views of any organization or other individual.  Mr. Williams is an independent blogger/writer. We present these blogs for C4 website visitors as an information source and as an additional way to chronologically follow the debates, commentaries and discussions about cruise tourism in Charleston.

1)  Charleston City Council approves resolution supporting shoreside power – Post and Courier
http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20140225/PC05/140229627/1010/charleston-city-council-approves-resolution-supporting-shoreside-power

2)  Charleston City Council to address support for shoreside power…  – Post and Courier
http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20140218/PC05/140219326/1010/city-council-to-address-support-for-shoreside-power-at-downtown-cruise-terminal

3) Shore power is the wave of the local cruise future – Mike Seekings – Post and Courier
http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20140224/PC1002/140229768

4)  Disney Gets Top Grade on Cruise Ship pollution Report – USA Today
http://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/news/2013/10/23/cruise-ship-pollution/3170463/

5)  2013 Cruise ships pollution – Friends of the Earth
http://www.foe.org/cruise-report-card

6)  Air samples at cruise ship docks worldwide – Friends of the Earth
http://www.foe.org/news/archives/2013-12-air-samples-at-cruise-ship-docks-worldwide-find-dangerous-soot-lvls

7)  Harboring Pollution – strategies to clean up U.S. Ports – Natural Resources Defense Council
http://www.nrdc.org/air/pollution/ports/execsum.asp

8)  Reduce the risks of air pollution from cruise ships – Dr. Stephen Schabel, Charleston County Medical Society – Post and Courier
http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20120308/ARCHIVES/303089919

CHS | Why we’re lucky to have the Post and Courier

There are big differences in journalistic integrity among today’s newspapers.  Some papers refuse to be self-critical, some papers stifle comments and opinions opposed to their editorial positions, are critical of the paper or one of their reporters or columnists.   Some were once “great newspapers” that became great by reporting stories honestly and serving as a forum for an open public discourse of issues and ideas.   But in the industry’s new era of cost-cutting, media bias and compromise, many have slipped.
Today the editors of Charleston’s Post and Courier demonstrated greatness.  It wasn’t simply because they published the op-ed below, but because this particular op-ed openly criticized the viewpoint of a popular columnist.  They didn’t have to publish it.  No one would have known.  But they published it.  Unedited.  Charles Rowe and the P&C editorial board deserve credit.  We’re fortunate to have a newspaper in Charleston run by people who still care about journalism’s highest calling.

Here’s that op-ed: “Court keeping a Close Eye on Cruise Issue.”

BY JAY WILLIAMS

If Brian Hicks and Mayor Joe Riley are your only information sources about the proposed Union Pier cruise terminal project, you may be forgiven for not knowing much about it. Especially about two of the most recent lawsuits.

A recent Hicks column began, “The State Supreme Court was pretty dismissive to the ‘cruise control’ crowd last month” before saying that the justices “were sort of condescending.” And “if that wasn’t dismissive enough,” Hicks continued, “Mayor Riley called the lawsuit ‘almost laughable’ from the start.”

Fortunately, there are more nuanced commentators…

Please continue reading in today’s printed Post and Courier or at this link:

http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20140218/PC1002/140219420/1021/court-keeping-a-close-eye-on-cruise-issue

 

 

Written by jwilliams
The Charleston Cruise Control Blog, written by Jay Williams, Jr., published periodically since May, 2011, consists of opinions and discussions about cruise ship tourism. Although Jay is involved with various local organizations, the opinions he expresses are solely his; they do not represent the views of any organization or other individual.  Mr. Williams is an independent blogger/writer. We present these blogs for C4 website visitors as an information source and as an additional way to chronologically follow the debates, commentaries and discussions about cruise tourism in Charleston.

CHS | The Lawsuits; what you may not know

CHS |  The Lawsuits; what you may not know

If Brian Hicks and Mayor Riley are your only information sources about the proposed Union Pier cruise terminal project, you can be forgiven for not knowing much about it.  Especially about two of the most recent lawsuits.

The most recent Hicks column began, “The State Supreme Court was pretty dismissive to the ‘cruise control’ crowd last month” before saying that the justices “were sort of condescending.”  And “if that wasn’t [sic] dismissive enough,” Hicks continued, “Mayor Riley called the lawsuit ‘almost laughable’ from the start.”(1)  Fortunately for Charleston, there are more nuanced commentators.

It’s correct that the SC Supreme Court dismissed the case concerning Carnival Cruise Line’s alleged violations of local and nuisance ordinances on a technicality, saying that the various neighborhood and preservation organizations weren’t the proper parties to make these claims.  But the court also said that individuals could bring claims in a separate lawsuit.(2,3)   Importantly, the court did not say any of the claims lacked merit, and as new claims may be raised against Carnival in the future, the suggestion that the court was “condescending” or that the claims are “laughable” is pure spin.

In a separate statement, Blan Holman, the Southern Environmental Law Center attorney representing the plaintiff’s noted that, “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.”(4)  These are the allegations that Mr. Hicks and the mayor have elected to ignore.  Then there’s that second case…

Last September, as U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel tossed out the federal permit for the planned $35 million cruise terminal at Union Pier, he minced no words declaring that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not adequately review the project’s impacts on the area.  Chastising the Corps’ attorneys, Judge Gergel said, “I think you did an end run, you gave this permit the bum’s rush.”   Refusing to accept the SPA’s specious argument that the waterfront terminal only needed a federal permit to install five new pilings, the judge told the defendants’ attorneys, “You have an obligation to look at the entire project.  “You haven’t done what the law requires you to do by reducing a 108,000-square-foot project to 41 square feet of pilings. The process got distorted by limiting it to five piers.”(6)  This blog correctly predicted that the SPA and Army Corps would defiantly appeal the ruling, and they did before reconsidering their position last month.(7)

Because of this ruling, the Army Corps of Engineers must conduct a thorough review of all the environmental and historic impacts of locating a giant new cruise terminal at Union Pier.  Such reviews are very specific and Congressionally-mandated in these situations.  This is the same requirement that the SPA tried to evade earlier in its head-on rush to build a terminal before anyone might realize of all of its potential impacts.  Brian Hicks and Mayor Riley are no doubt upset by that failure to comport with the law.

Most importantly, Judge Gergel also highlighted the central problem of locating a cruise terminal near the heart of Charleston’s Historic District, arguably South Carolina’s centerpiece of tourism, culture, and economic development.  As the AP reported, “the judge said that there is evidence in the 1,200-page court record that the terminal is being designed for larger ships than now call and could more than triple the number of cruise passengers visiting the city.”(6)   And “triple” may be an understatement.

Later in his column, Brian Hicks wrote, “This is not over by a long shot.”  For that, he should be thankful.  Now there’s an opportunity during this federally-mandated process for the Army Corps to seek honest local input, do a thorough study of impacts, and research alternative locations for a cruise terminal.  Those contrived State Ports Authority “citizen input sessions” won’t cut it this time–a federal court will be watching.

Jay, 11 Feb 14

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1)  Over, Cruise ship fight isn’t over until we say it is – Brian Hicks – Post and Courier
http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20140202/PC16/140209942/1177/over-cruise-ship-fight-isnt-over-until-we-say-it-is

2)  Limit Cruise ship consequences on peninsula – Steve Gates – P&C
http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20140204/PC1002/140209796/1021/limit-cruise-ship-consequences-on-peninsula

3) SC High Court throws out Cruise pollution case – Law 360
http://www.law360.com/articles/503095/sc-high-court-throws-out-carnival-cruise-pollution-case

4)  Supreme Court leaves legality of Cruise Harms in Historic Charleston unanswered  – Blan Holman, SELC
http://www.southernenvironment.org/newsroom/press_releases/supreme_court_leaves_legality_of_cruise_ship_harms_in_historic_charleston_u/

5)  SC Supreme Court tosses lawsuit seeking to block cruise ship operations – Meg Kinnard – AP
http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/travel/241519801.html

6)  Judge tosses permit for SC Cruise Terminal – Bruce Smith – AP
http://bigstory.ap.org/article/judge-tosses-federal-permit-sc-cruise-terminal

7)  SPA and Army Corps of Engineers withdraw cruise terminal permit appeal – Charleston Business Journal
https://www.charlestonbusiness.com/news/50021-spa-army-corps-of-engineers-to-withdraw-cruise-terminal-permit-appeal

 

Written by jwilliams
The Charleston Cruise Control Blog, written by Jay Williams, Jr., published periodically since May, 2011, consists of opinions and discussions about cruise ship tourism. Although Jay is involved with various local organizations, the opinions he expresses are solely his; they do not represent the views of any organization or other individual.  Mr. Williams is an independent blogger/writer. We present these blogs for C4 website visitors as an information source and as an additional way to chronologically follow the debates, commentaries and discussions about cruise tourism in Charleston.

CHS | After losing its permit, the SPA will surely compromise. Ah, no.

CHS | After losing its permit, the SPA will surely compromise.  Ah, no.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard M. Gergel ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to comply with the “formal assessment and consultative requirements” of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) before awarding the SC Ports Authority (SPA) a permit to transform “a previously permitted transit shed…into a modern state-of-the-art $35-million cruise ship passenger terminal” at Union Pier in Charleston.

The Army Corps, for unknown and probably unknowable reasons, had determined that complying with the NEPA and NHPA assessments was unnecessary because “the proposed activity will result in minimal individual and cumulative adverse environmental effects.”  The project, the Corps said, would qualify as “maintenance,” and stated that the cruise terminal project had “no potential to cause effects on historic properties.”

Judge Gergel ruled otherwise. The Army Corps of Engineers, he said, ignored its responsibilities to do a proper assessment under the controlling NEPA and NHPA acts by saying that it was limiting its review to only five new pilings to support elevators and escalators that would come in contact with navigable waters.  That argument, the Court said, is “plainly inconsistent with the Army Corps’ own regulation…which provides for jurisdiction involving ‘any structure in or over any navigable water in the United States.'”   In his conclusion, the judge went farther, saying that rather than consider “all the activities in its jurisdiction under the Rivers and Harbors Act ‘in its scope of analysis,’ the Army Corps of Engineers, unreasonably and unlawfully, restricted its ‘scope of analysis’ to an insignificant fraction of the project that lay within the agency’s jurisdiction.”

“By omitting more than 99% of the project within its jurisdiction…  “The Court finds that the Army Corps’ limitation of the ‘scope of analysis’ to five concrete pile clusters was arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable, and contrary to law.”

Almost equally disturbing were the SPA’s own statements and data that it presented to the Court.  Quoting from the ruling, “The Ports Authority has acknowledged that a cruise ship terminal can ‘present special challenges’ in ‘managing automobile and pedestrian traffic,’ ‘protecting the environment,’ ‘and preserving Charleston’s unique character’ and ‘there are still lingering questions about how well the cruise ship business will fit into the context of this diverse, world class city.'”  “Record evidence provided by the Ports Authority supports the [opponent’s] claim…that the number of cruise ships and passengers has increased in recent years, and the proposed new and larger passenger terminal would likely significantly increase the number and size of cruise ships visiting Charleston and the volume of cruise passengers in the historic Charleston waterfront.”  By 2012, the number of ships visiting Charleston had increased by 86% over “the 2005-2009 five-year average.”

And the SPA also gave us a glimpse into a far worse future.  With a new terminal, the 1990’s-era, 855’, 2,056-passenger Carnival “Fantasy” will be replaced with ships carrying 3,450 passengers.  And based on the SPA’s data, the Court concluded, “Even if the Ports Authority maintained its voluntary cap of 104 cruise ship visits a year(2), this would represent a 131% increase over the 2005-2009 five year average and a 24% increase from 2012.”   And to service such a volume of passengers, the Court noted, the SPA estimates that on an average embarkation and disembarkation day, “up to twenty tractor trailers, sixteen small trucks, thirty-two busses, ninety taxis, and 1600 passenger vehicles would need access to the very confined” terminal area that “lies immediately adjacent to the Charleston Historic District and the Ansonborough neighborhood.”

So how do you think the SPA reacted to the ruling?   Did it agree to comply, did it suggest a compromise, or did it offer to study another, less invasive location for a terminal?   No.  It appealed.  The appeal came in spite of the SPA’s own website that appears to invalidate any argument that their project could be considered “maintenance”:  “…Charleston is an ideal cruise port.  With an efficiently run operation and plans for a new state-of-the-art cruise terminal, our port is ready to welcome cruise operators and travelers alike.”(3)  Yes, and with the widening of the Panama Canal and a newly prosperous Chinese middle class, are we to believe that those ships of the future will carry only 3,450 travelers?

But if you’re looking for relief from Charleston’s mayor or its complacent, compliant City Council, forget it.  Mayor Joseph Riley recently reiterated his total lack of interest in regulating cruise ship tourism.(4)   So it’s up to the courts.

Oral arguments in another case will be presented this Tuesday, this one at the SC Supreme Court.(5)   Carnival Cruise Lines will argue to dismiss charges that it’s violating zoning ordinances, permitting requirements and creating a nuisance.(6)  True to form, both the SPA and the City of Charleston intervened in this case on behalf of…the defendant, not on behalf of the residents, organizations and associations trying to protect Charleston from the accelerating threat of unregulated cruise ship tourism.

Surely the SC Supreme Court read Judge Richard Gergel’s decision and recognizes the defendant’s fallacious assertion that their massive floating resorts can tie up at will, disgorge thousands of people simultaneously onto the world’s most cherished historic places, and then ignore every rule and regulation these historic places have developed to protect their history, culture and quality of life.  Or must degradation accompany this exploitation?

Jay, 15 Nov 13

—-
1)   U.S. District of South Carolina, Charleston Division, Court Decision.  Preservation Society and Coastal Conservation League vs. US Army Corps of Engineers and SC Ports Authority
<Federal Cruise Permit SJ Order 9-18-13.pdf>

2)  The SPA has steadfastly refused to commit those “voluntary limits” in to legally binding limits.
“This Charleston Harbor Battle is over Cruise Ships” – NY Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/20/us/battle-in-genteel-charleston-over-cruise-ships.html?_r=0

3)  South Carolina Ports website – Cruise Charleston page
http://www.port-of-charleston.com/cruises/cruises.asp

4)  Reports of Mayor Joseph Riley’s comments at the membership meeting of the Charlestowne Neighborhood Assn., 29 Oct 13.

5)  South Carolina Supreme Court, Register of Cases for November, 2013.  Look for first case on 19 November.
http://www.judicial.state.sc.us/supremeRosters/dspSupRosterMenu.cfm

6)  “Carnival Cruise Lines asks for Dismissal of Suit” – Post and Courier
http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20110810/PC05/308109921

 

Written by jwilliams
The Charleston Cruise Control Blog, written by Jay Williams, Jr., published periodically since May, 2011, consists of opinions and discussions about cruise ship tourism. Although Jay is involved with various local organizations, the opinions he expresses are solely his; they do not represent the views of any organization or other individual.  Mr. Williams is an independent blogger/writer. We present these blogs for C4 website visitors as an information source and as an additional way to chronologically follow the debates, commentaries and discussions about cruise tourism in Charleston.

Jay’s Newest Post: Can a federal judge save Charleston from becoming Venice?

Can a federal judge save Charleston from becoming Venice?

In the nick of time, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel tossed the permit for the SPA’s (SC State Port’s Authority) planned $35 million cruise terminal in Charleston.  The judge ruled that the US Army Corps of Engineers did not adequately review the project’s impacts on the area, accused the Crops of “doing an end run,” and chastised the Corps’ attorneys: “You gave this permit the bum’s rush.”(1)

Noting the problems the large cruise terminal could create for the environment and the city’s historic district, among the several critical impacts that should have been carefully studied, but weren’t, Judge Gergel told the Corps’ attorneys, “You have an obligation to look at the entire project. You haven’t done what the law requires you to do by reducing a 108,000 square-foot project to 41-square feet of pilings. The process got distorted by limiting it to five piers.”

The judge noted that within the 1,200 pages of documents that there is evidence “that the terminal is being designed for larger ships than now call and could more than triple the number of cruise passengers visiting the city,” according to Bruce Smith’s Associated Press report.(2)  The judge said, “Somehow the Corps has reduced a major project to something that is less than 1 percent of the project.  I feel like I’m a nanny here trying to get you to do what Congress intends.”   The judge did not say, but we will, that the existing pier at Union Pier is 1800′, easily long enough to accommodate any of the largest ships afloat!

The SPA’s relentless “hurry up” rush to build a new cruise terminal at Union Pier near downtown was, temporarily, at least, placed “in irons” by the decision.  The judge’s formal ruling could come at any time and will likely be issued within the next 30 days.  And what happens next will likely depend on Judge Gergel’s written order.

Swimmers take venice

Swimmers take venice

(photo credit: Protesters leapt into Venice’s Giudecca Canal to block cruise ships inside the port last week  They and 1,000 supporters say that the cruise ships tower over the historic rooftops and drown the city in tourism. Photo: Getty Images (3))

We’re “not sure if that [order] will require SPA to ‘reapply’ but it will presumably require the Corps to reexamine SPA’s application by looking not just at the pilings needed for a new cruise terminal, but the cruise terminal itself,” Blan Holman, managing attorney of the Charleston office for the Southern Environmental Law Center informed this blog.  “That is, the Corps would need to consider the impacts of building a new cruise terminal, and, as well, options for reducing or avoiding those impacts.  Shore power, satellite parking, limits on ship size and number, alternative [terminal] locations — these come to mind,” adding, “And it’s possible that the Corps and the SPA will appeal that ruling…”   Holman noted that there are two other lawsuits pending, “One is a challenge to DHEC’s approvals for the terminal; that matter is currently pending before the SC Administrative Law Court (ALC).”  And “The third piece of litigation is the lawsuit filed by several neighborhood associations, the Preservation Society, and the Conservation League against Carnival for violating zoning ordinances, permitting requirements and creating a nuisance.”

The importance of the judge’s written order can’t be overstated.  The impacts of cruise tourism, as the severely damaged city of Venice has found out, are varied and immense.  Last Saturday, when this Venice picture was snapped, unusual circumstances had allowed 12 cruise ships to head past St. Mark’s Square in one day!  The main problem in Venice, as a speaker informed the Preservation Society’s cruise conference last year, is that ships are permitted to dock adjacent to the historic city, are creating incredible, irreversible impacts to the city’s historic foundations, culture, civil structure, and local populace–over half of whom have left the city in the past three decades.  The only solution now, said the expert, is to move the port across to the mainland, away from the city; that would dramatically reduce the impacts.  That could be a solution in Charleston, too, as the Corps was required to study alternate locations for the terminal–and never did.

Judge Gergel’s decision is good news for Charleston.  “We welcome this ruling because it clarifies the obligation the SPA has to protect the environment and the historic character of the city.  We hope this will open the door for more productive discussions about how to best deal with cruise traffic in Charleston,” Dana Beach, executive director of the Coastal Conservation League, told this blog.

We welcome it, too.  And we hope it forces the SPA and the city to look beyond their immediate interests and agendas and into the future.  Because that future will be crammed with ever-growing numbers of ever-larger cruise ships carrying millions more passengers every single year.(4)   Once upon a time, cruise ships weren’t a problem in Venice.  Now they are, and any solution will cost hundreds of billions–and come too late to save Venice.

–Jay, 24 Sept 13

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1)  Judge docks Charleston Cruise Terminal Study – Post and Courier
http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20130912/PC05/130919772

2)  Judge tosses federal permit for SC cruise terminal – Bruce Smith/AP
http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/09/12/3622606/judge-tosses-federal-permit-for.html

3)  Protesters dive into Venice canal to protest cruise ships – The Telegraph (UK)
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/10326417/Protesters-dive-into-Venice-canal-to-block-cruise-ships.html

4)  Growth of the Cruise line industry – Cruise Market Watch
http://www.cruisemarketwatch.com/growth/

 

Written by jwilliams
The Charleston Cruise Control Blog, written by Jay Williams, Jr. and published periodically since May, 2011, consists of opinions and commentary about cruise ship tourism. Although Jay is a C4 Advisory Board member and a board member of the Charlestowne Neighborhood Assn., the opinions he expresses are his alone; they are not intended to represent C4 or any other organization or any member of any organization. Mr. Williams is an independent blogger/writer. These blogs provide C4 website visitors an additional information source regarding the cruise terminal debates and discussions in Charleston.

 

Jay’s Latest Blog

BULLETIN:

Federal U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel tossed out the federal permit that was required to build the SPA’s (SC State Ports Authority) proposed new cruise terminal at Union Pier near downtown Charleston.(1)

After reviewing hundreds of pages of briefs and documents and hearing two hours of oral testimony, the judge ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not adequately review all the necessary criteria before issuing the permit and that its analysis was flawed by limiting it to installing the pilings. This marks a huge victory for conservationists and preservationists who had argued that the Corps did not take into consideration any of the impacts that a new terminal would have on the environment, the city or the historic districts before issuing its now jettisoned permit. The Corps and the SPA had argued that the installation of five new clusters of pilings underneath a building that was already used for maritime purposes would have little impact, but neighborhood, civic, and preservations groups, media outlets and this blog successfully argued that the permitting process itself had mandated a wider review.

“The scope of the analysis was done wrong,” Judge Gergel said in court today. This is one of three lawsuits filed against the cruise terminal that many opponents have charged will bring more unregulated tourists, traffic, congestion, noise and pollution into an area that could be permanently damaged as a result.(2) The SPA, the state legislature, and the city have all refused to put any restrictions on the rapidly growing cruise industry or its operations in Charleston.

–Jay, 12 Sept 13

1) Judge tosses federal permit for $35 million cruise terminal – Associated Press
http://www.live5news.com/story/23411575/sc-cruise-lawsuit-being-heard-in-federal-court

2) Back to drawing board for Army Corps… – Post and Courier
http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20130912/PC05/130919772/federal-judge-orders-more-review-in-cruise-terminal-permit

 

Written by jwilliams
The Charleston Cruise Control Blog, written by Jay Williams, Jr. and published periodically since May, 2011, consists of opinions and commentary about cruise ship tourism. Although Jay is a C4 Advisory Board member and a board member of the Charlestowne Neighborhood Assn., the opinions he expresses are his alone; they are not intended to represent C4 or any other organization or any member of any organization. Mr. Williams is an independent blogger/writer. These blogs provide C4 website visitors an additional information source regarding the cruise terminal debates and discussions in Charleston.