Charleston cruise ship terminal opponents want another shot at appeal

Petitioning the S.C. Court of Appeals to revisit a case it’s already ruled on is typically a futile formality on the way to asking the state’s highest court for a review.

Such rehearings are rarely granted.

But last week’s petition, filed by opponents of a new cruise ship terminal at the Port of Charleston‘s Union Pier near the historic City Market, provides a preview of the arguments those groups will make if the S.C. Supreme Court later decides to take the case.

The appeals court last month ruled the opponents — they include environmental, neighborhood and historic preservation groups — do not have a legal right to stop the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control from issuing a permit the State Ports Authority needs to build the $35 million terminal.

Those opponents, in their petition for rehearing, say the court’s three-judge panel made numerous mistakes in coming to their conclusion.

For example, the judges said the increased noise, pollution, traffic congestion and aesthetic harm opponents say a new terminal would bring are “generalized complaints” that aren’t sufficient to establish direct harm to the groups that are suing.

“In fact, each of the individual members of the community groups that provided affidavits described concrete and particularized injuries that they would personally suffer,” Southern Environmental Law Center lawyer Blan Holman, who represents the opposition groups, wrote in last week’s petition.

Those opponents say they’re already experiencing sore throats caused by cruise ship emissions, oily soot landing on their homes and property and other issues with cruise operations at the SPA’s current terminal a few hundred feet south of the proposed site. A bigger terminal, they say, would lead to even bigger problems.

Each of these people, Holman wrote, have “demonstrated injury from the cruise terminal in a personal and individualized way.”

The judges also said opponents must prove their business or property values have declined as a direct result of the new terminal — something Holman said is “difficult if not impossible” to do because the terminal hasn’t been built.

Holman also said in his petition that opponents were already granted the right to challenge a permit for the new terminal during a separate, but related, federal court hearing — something the appeals court judges ignored, he added.

He wants the appeals court to reverse its earlier decision and give terminal opponents the right to fight the DHEC construction permit. The SPA has not filed a response to the petition, but previously said it is “gratified” by the October ruling.

The long-running legal dispute centers around a permit that DHEC issued in 2012 allowing the SPA to place five additional clusters of support pilings beneath an older warehouse at the north end of Union Pier. That’s where the maritime agency wants to build a new terminal, replacing a nearby 1970s-era building used mostly by Carnival Cruise Line and its Ecstasy cruise ship.

The pilings are needed, according to court documents, to support three elevators and two escalators. The new site would be more than three times larger than the existing terminal.

Groups including the Coastal Conservation League, the Preservation Society of Charleston and others filed a lawsuit opposing DHEC’s ruling, but a state Administrative Law Court judge ruled the groups did not have a right to sue. Those groups then filed their appeal.

Holman has said the groups would support a terminal farther north from the city’s Historic District, but SPA officials say Union Pier is the only site available for construction.

The SPA also needs a federal permit to proceed with the project. The Army Corps of Engineers is reviewing an application for that permit but has not set a timetable for its decision. A 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.

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State Appeal Hearing… Thank you SELC & SCELP!!

Thanks to ALL those who attended! We took up most of the courtroom….Here is the full article:



Appeals court hears argument on cruise ships in Charleston

COLUMBIA — The state Court of Appeals heard arguments Wednesday in the long-running debate over a new cruise ship terminal in Charleston’s Historic District.

There is no deadline for the court to make its ruling, and it could take a year or more.

The arguments centered on whether the Preservation Society of Charleston, Coastal Conservation League and residents of the city’s historic district have the right to sue the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control for issuing a 2012 permit to the State Ports Authority for support pilings beneath an old warehouse at Union Pier.

That is where the Ports Authority wants to build a new, larger terminal for cruise ships, about 100 feet north of its current terminal.

The group of preservationists and conservationists filed a lawsuit challenging DHEC’s permit because they feel a larger terminal in the Historic District would exacerbate problems like pollution and traffic.

A state Administrative Law Court judge previously ruled the groups did not have a right to sue. Those groups filed their appeal in 2014, but the appeals court delayed hearing the oral arguments repeatedly.

Blan Holman, a lawyer with the Southern Environmental Law Center representing the plaintiffs, reiterated concerns about the proposed terminal Wednesday to the panel of three judges. He said if residents may challenge a permit for a liquor store near their homes, they also should be allowed to challenge a permit for a large cruise ship terminal nearby.

“These are not cargo ships. They are floating towns with more people than Sullivan’s Island,” Holman said.

He added that residents who live near the docked ships deal with soot from the exhaust pipes in the air and on their properties, potentially harming their health.

“These people are experiencing harm directly on their person and in their homes,” he said. “They are entitled to have a hearing from an administrative law judge.”

Attorney Chad Johnston of Willoughby & Hoefer PA of Columbia represented the SPA. He said the Administrative Law Court was right to dismiss the lawsuit because those residents and groups will not be harmed by future cruise ship operations.

“The Ports Authority submits that the cruise industry is a valuable part of its business model, and it will continue to accept cruise ships at its current location or at the new one, regardless of what happens in this case,” Johnston said.

 In addition to the state permit, the Ports Authority also needs a federal permit from the Army Corps of Engineers to move forward with the new terminal. A previous federal permit application was tossed out by U.S. District Judge Gergel, who ruled that it did not properly consider the impacts the new facility would have on the city’s Historic District.

The Army Corps is now reviewing a new application.

Bradley Churdar, DHEC’s attorney, argued Wednesday that the state’s permit should not be vacated simply because a previous federal permit had been. He also said the Administrative Law Court decision is not subject to appeal.

Chief Judge James E. Lockemy asked Holman what he thought might happen if that court’s ruling is upheld.

“I believe if we were found to not have standing … we would have fewer rights than the person who challenges the liquor store on the corner,” Holman said. “It’s taking away these taxpaying, property-holding citizens’ rights to participate in an administrative process.”

Barcelona Shows Charleston What it Needs to Do….

There was a time when Charleston was at the forefront of maintaining the balance between tourism and quality of life….of protecting the city’s historic integrity while encouraging others to appreciate it.

Now we have to hope our elected officials will learn from others.  Barcelona is the latest.  Read here for more!

Free Shuttle to State Appeal Hearing 2/15/17

Join us in Columbia for the State Appeal hearing!! Please sign up for the free shuttle….we must have a final head count by Saturday, February 11.

Click here to join us


Oral arguments in the cruise terminal state permit case before the SC Court of Appeals in Columbia, SC on February 15, at noon. A free shuttle has been organized by Charleston Communities for Cruise Control and the Coastal Conservation League to take those interested in being present to and from Columbia. A reservation is required so the appropriate size bus is reserved. Please do so via the link below before February 11!

This is an appeal of a decision by S.C. Administrative Law Judge R. K. Anderson III holding that the groups lacked “standing” to challenge the legality of permits for the proposed cruise terminal.

This is a major reason in having actual “bodies” there, showing that the groups are comprised of taxpaying citizens, and should be allowed to contest the permit!

Our attorneys contend on appeal that the ALC judge erred because, in fact, our groups and members have more than enough at stake to entitle us to an administrative hearing on whether the SC DHEC permit was unlawfully issued.

Letting the ALC’s decision stand would severely curtail the ability of neighboring citizens to defend their health and their property from unlawfully authorized pollution.

The argument is open to the public and you are encouraged to attend.  The Courthouse is located in the Calhoun State Office Building at 1220 Senate Street in Columbia.

Carnival Pleads Guilty to Environmental Felonies

Cruise Ship Pollution Case has Consequences for Charleston’s Ecstasy

The Charleston-based Carnival Ecstasy and all other cruise ships sailing under Carnival Corp.‘s eight brands will be under strict environmental monitoring during the next five years – the result of an agreement between the company and federal prosecutors to end a criminal pollution case.

Carnival’s Princess Cruises division agreed this month to plead guilty to seven felony charges and pay a record $40 million fine after it was caught dumping thousands of gallons of oily waste, called bilge water, into the ocean for about eight years. The Port of Charleston was among the ports that prosecutors say Princess Cruises visited when the pollution scheme was taking place, and that pollution likely occurred in U.S. waters.

Princess Cruises’ employees tried to cover up the pollution with false entries in record books used to track the waste, court records show. The cruise line will officially enter its guilty plea at a Dec. 20 hearing in federal court in Miami.

Prosecutors focused on five Princess Cruises ships, but court documents show vessels in Carnival’s other divisions have kept inaccurate waste discharge records in violation of federal law. The other ships aren’t named, but U.S. Attorney‘s offices in 18 districts, including South Carolina, have agreed to forego prosecution in exchange for the guilty plea.

That doesn’t mean the other ships are getting off scot-free.

Under the agreement, all of Carnival’s 99 ships, including the Ecstasy, will have to take part in a court-monitored environmental compliance program while Princess Cruises is on probation for the next five years.

The plan includes third-party auditors to make sure the vessels follow all U.S. pollution control laws. Carnival will have to update its policies and training programs and make sure an environmental officer is on each ship. There will be inspections by the U.S. Coast Guard and annual audits.

And Carnival will have to make sure there is enough money available to properly dispose of waste while ships are in port rather than at sea. Prosecutors said on one of the reasons Princess Cruises dumped its pollution at sea was to save on costs.

The agreement is a good start, according to Southern Environmental Law Center attorney Blan Holman. But he says more needs to be done.

“It only lasts for five years and there is zero transparency to the public to monitor things,” Holman said of the program. “If the cruise lines were serious about stopping illegal pollution, they would put all their records somewhere so the public in Charleston could easily see them.”

Holman is representing several historic preservation and neighborhood groups in Charleston who want to block the State Ports Authority‘s plans to develop a new passenger terminal for the Ecstasy and other cruise ships at Union Pier. The SPA has said the new terminal, which would just north of the current building, would alleviate traffic congestion and provide more modern facilities.

The terminal dispute focuses more on the cruise industry’s impact on the city’s densely populated Historic District, but the Princess Cruises revelations have renewed the environmental concerns.

Holman said current pollution laws are too weak, allowing cruise ships to dump grease and some bathroom waste as close as four mile from the coast.

“All of the pollution happens below deck and is almost impossible to detect,” Holman said. “They got caught this time only because someone on the inside defected and blew the whistle.”

For its part, Princess Cruises called its employees’ actions “inexcusable” and said in a statement that it is “extremely disappointed” in the pollution violations.

“Although we had policies and procedures in place, it became apparent they were not fully effective,” said Princess Cruises, which cooperated with federal authorities in the investigation. “We are very sorry that this happened and have taken additional steps to ensure we meet or exceed all environmental requirements.”

 This is the second time Carnival has been caught violating U.S. pollution laws. In 2002, the cruise line pleaded guilty to several felonies for discharging oily waste into the ocean. Carnival paid an $18 million fine and was placed on probation in that case.

The cruise industry has long been criticized by environmental groups such as Friends of the Earth, which often gives Carnival subsidiaries poor or failing marks on pollution control measures in the nonprofit’s annual industry report cards. The Ecstasy, launched in January 1991 and now one of Carnival’s oldest ships, received a D-minus from the group this year.

Friends of the Earth said in a statement that there is “an ongoing lack of initiative by cruise companies to install technologies that reduce their air and water pollution impact on travel destinations and local peoples.”

The Princess Cruises case was much more blatant, prosecutors say, with what appears to be a concerted effort by the cruise line to skirt pollution laws.

“The pollution in this case was the result of more than just bad actors on one ship,” John Gruden, assistant attorney general with the U.S. Justice Department, said in a statement. “It reflects very poorly on Princess’ culture and management. This is a company that knew better and should have done better. Hopefully the outcome of this case has the potential not just to chart a new course for this company, but for other companies as well.”

Holman said he’s skeptical because the agreement doesn’t spell out specific penalties for violations.

“Voluntary agreements are meaningless,” he said. “Unless there are consequences, nothing happens and cost cutting will lead to illegal dumping.”

Reach David Wren at 843-937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_

Citizens’ groups act to defend our legal rights

Citizens’ groups act to defend our legal rights

Could anything impact Charleston’s future more than the proposed new 100,000 sq. ft. cruise terminal at Union Pier?

Yes. There’s the possibility that citizens’ rights to protest any public controversy could be diminished in the legal process.  There may be a trend in the South Carolina courts to do just that.

The appeal was scheduled to be heard on Election Day, but at the last minute, for the seventh time, the the SC Court of Appeals postponed oral arguments in an appeal arising from DHEC’s issuance of permits to the State Ports Authority (SPA) for a new cruise terminal.  The case is now likely to be heard early next year.  That appeal involves the denial of legal standing of several groups that had challenged the issuance of those permits and the imposition of sanctions on those groups by Administrative Law Judge Ralph King Anderson III.

The judge ruled that all these citizens’ groups, the Coastal Conservation League, The Preservation Society of Charleston, Historic Charleston Foundation, The Charlestowne Neighborhood Association, Historic Ansonborough Neighborhood Association, The Charleston Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, and The Charleston Communities for Cruise Control had no right to challenge DHEC’s approval of those permits.  DHEC is the SC Department of Health & Environmental Control.

You’re not to be blamed if you’ve lost track of the process, it’s been a long slough.

Five pilings, five years of history

The SPA has relentlessly pursued the construction of a new cruise terminal for five years declaring that the existing terminal is inadequate and doesn’t meet Homeland Security requirements.  But to build anything on the harbor, it needs both state and federal permits.

Back then, the SPA applied for and received a federal permit hoping for quick approval.  But three years ago, after opponents filed a suit to oppose it, United States District Court Judge Richard Gergel tossed the SPA’s federal permit to build the proposed $35 million terminal at Union Pier and blasted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for failing to adequately review the project’s effects as mandated by Congress. “I think you did an end run,” he told the Army Corps lawyers. “You gave this permit the bum’s rush.”

The Corps had determined that installing five clusters of pilings beneath the building would have little impact, but that didn’t satisfy Judge Gergel.  “You have an obligation to look at the entire project,” Gergel told their attorneys. “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 federal judge also referenced evidence contained in a 1,200-page filing that the new terminal is being designed for larger ships than now call here, and that the new terminal could more than triple the number of cruise passengers visiting the city.

Any potential surge of cruise passenger traffic strikes fear in the hearts of many downtown residents.  Those fears are hardly placated by SPA CEO Jim Newsome’s assertions that cruise ships are “maritime commerce,” and that cruise passengers aren’t tourists that can be regulated by the City.

The SPA has put “voluntary limits” on the size, number and frequency of visits for cruise ships.  That limit is 104 ships a year with a 3,500-passenger maximum.  But the SPA can unilaterally exceed these “voluntary limits” simply by issuing a notice to the City of Charleston one year in advance.

Following Judge Gergel’s rebuke, the Army Corps has held citizen input sessions and conducted studies of the terminal area.  Next week, it will bring the parties together to discuss the proposed Area of Potential Effect (APE), the geographic area that would be impacted by the new cruise terminal.  As you might imagine, determining those APE boundaries has been a contentious process.

It will be critical SC Appeals Court decision

The State has a parallel role, and DHEC has issued the necessary permits for a new terminal.  Those permits also were challenged in the Administrative Law Court, but Judge Anderson ruled that those groups did not have standing.  That ruling brings us to that appeal at the SC Court of Appeals in Columbia.

“The Administrative Law Court said you don’t have the right to bring this lawsuit,” Southern Environmental Law Center attorney Blan Holman explained, “but the law says ‘any affected person’ can challenge bureaucratic action, and these people living next to a cruise terminal are injured,” as shown in affidavits, by noise, soot, pollution, traffic, congestion, and other effects.  The judge made other errors, at least according to the Appellants, including “refusing to expand discovery.”

Holman, representing two of the groups appealing the ruling, added, “You can love or hate cruise ships, that doesn’t mater.  You should agree that these people who are affected have the right to challenge unlawful government action.” He said, “The ruling applied the wrong legal test, ignored evidence, and shouldn’t have even reached the conclusion it did as the federal courts already determined that we had standing.”

Citizens’ rights are on trial

This appeal is not merely about objecting to impacts from the cruise operations in Charleston, although that’s what brought us here. The core issue is bigger–it’s about citizen’s rights.  Attorney Holman argues that, “It’s about families and property owners across the state having the right to challenge injurious government action.

“Some in South Carolina want to take those rights away,” Holman submits, “and they are pursuing that agenda aggressively in the Legislature and the courts.  We are fighting to defend and restore a right established with the founding of the nation and South Carolina — the right to petition against the government. Upholding that right doesn’t mean we will necessarily win on the merits of the permit challenge itself.  But it ensures the merits of that challenge see the light of day. Justice demands no less.”

When the appeal is rescheduled, “It would be good for the people to see the Court in action.  The arguments aren’t long, and it’s a pretty formalized process,” Holman says. “Our side and the SPA will each have their say, interspersed by the judges’ questions.  It should only take about 45 minutes.  But the Court’s answer to the questions raised in this case will carry statewide importance in terms of citizens’ rights.”

Kristopher King, Executive Director of the Preservation Society, underscored the importance of the SC Appeals Court date, “We’ll be pleased to finally have our day in court. We maintain that the community [organizations] has standing in this issue. The outcome could result in a significant negative impact to the historic district and its residents, and this is exactly what these processes are meant to prevent. We certainly hope they do in this case.”

Dana Beach, Executive Director of the Coastal Conservation League, added this suggestion: “There is a growing consensus that the terminal is not appropriate or acceptable in this historic part of the city.  On top of the explosion of hotel rooms downtown, the congestion and visual impacts are simply too great. Charleston’s new mayor, John Tecklenberg, campaigned on reconsidering and revising the project.  Now it’s time for the SPA to do its part to sustain the economy and the quality of life of Charleston by revisiting this harmful proposal.”

#   #    #

Jay Williams Jr.

Charleston cruise ship terminal hearing delayed — again

The battle over a new cruise ship terminal in downtown Charleston won’t be overshadowed by the presidential election after all.

The state’s Court of Appeals, which was going to hear arguments in the cruise ship case on Election Day, canceled the Nov. 8 hearing “after careful consideration,” Jenny Kitchings, the clerk of court, said in a letter sent to lawyers on Friday. There is no new date for the hearing, which has been delayed numerous times over the past two years due to scheduling conflicts.

With the court’s calendar set for the rest of this year, it likely will be 2017 before the case returns to the docket.

The case pits several Charleston area environmental and historic preservation groups against the State Ports Authority and the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control.

DHEC granted a permit in 2012 that would let the maritime agency place five additional clusters of support pilings beneath an old warehouse at the north end of Union Pier. The SPA wants to spend about $35 million at that site on a new terminal for cruise ships, replacing a nearby 1970s-era building used mostly by Carnival Cruise Lines.

The environmental and preservation groups filed a lawsuit opposing DHEC’s ruling, but a state Administrative Law Court judge ruled the groups did not have a right to sue. An appeal of that ruling was filed in April 2014, and all sides have been waiting since then to present their arguments in court.

The groups, which are represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, say they oppose the new terminal because it would add to congestion and pollution near the city’s Historic District, threatening its unique character. They want the terminal moved farther north.

The SPA says its voluntary limit on the cruise ship business — no vessels with more than 3,500 passengers and no more than 104 ships per year — will address those concerns. The SPA’s current cruise ship terminal is just a few hundred feet south of the proposed facility and the maritime agency says a new facility would improve traffic patterns.

The SPA also needs a federal permit to proceed with the project. The Army Corps of Engineers is reviewing an application for that permit but has not set a timetable for its decision. A 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.

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Reach David Wren at 843-937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_

Join the Caravan to Columbia on November 8!


The SC Court of Appeals has scheduled oral argument in our State case challenging DHEC’s issuance of a permit to the State Port Authority for election day, Tuesday, November 8, at noon.

Yes, that is election day.

The arguments will be in Courtroom 1, SC Court of Appeals, 1220 Senate Street, Columbia.  The building is called the Calhoun State Office Building, and the entrance for the court is on the north side of the building, near the intersection of Senate and Sumter Streets.

This is our chance to PHYSICALLY show our belief in the case….Bodies will matter!!

TO THAT END: C4 has worked with the Coastal Conservation League to organize transportation to/from Columbia if enough people commit to coming.

Please RSVP at this link by November 3.  We currently have space for 14-30 people.

C4 and the Coastal Conservation League are happy to cover the cost of the transportation, but as always any donations would be much appreciated!!

Those who choose to join us in Columbia will be back well prior to 7:00PM to vote!!!!!! There is always the option to vote beforehand as well–we anticipate getting on the road to Columbia at 9 AM.

As you may recall, the main issue on appeal is whether C4 and the other groups have legal “standing” to challenge the permits issued by the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) for SPA’s proposed new, larger cruise terminal on Laurens Street. The sanctions imposed on us by the ALC will also be reviewed at the hearing.

Our attorneys have appealed a S.C. Administrative Law Court decision which held that our groups had no legal right to challenge DHEC’s approvals. The judge reasoned that none of our members would suffer any injury from a 100,000 sq ft., $35 million cruise terminal built to home-base 3500-passenger vessels in downtown Charleston.

Because the ALC threw the case out for lack of standing, we never had the opportunity to present the merits of the case. On appeal, we contend that the terminal’s localized air pollution, increased traffic, and historic neighborhood degradation are more than sufficient to allow our day in court.

As stated above, the public is welcome to attend Court of Appeals hearings.  The Court has advised counsel to arrive early, since cases beforehand may end early.

Letter: Growing pains

Robert Rosen’s Sept. 18 op-ed provided an interesting snapshot of Charleston’s transformation over the past 36 years.

Drawing on his years of service with the city, he offered sound advice for dealing with the rapid growth Charleston is experiencing.

He pointed out that “infrastructure, especially highways, is simply not in place to support this growth.”

There is another relatively new infrastructure component Mr. Rosen does not mention but that Charleston and many coastal cities must factor into future planning and development: the daunting technical challenges and immense cost of adapting to sea-level rise in the decades ahead.

Richard Wildermann

Privateer Creek Road

Johns Island

Click to see article

Charleston does not deserve the same fate as Venice!!

PISA, Italy — A deadly plague haunts Venice, and it’s not the cholera to which Thomas Mann’s character Gustav von Aschenbach succumbed in the Nobel laureate’s 1912 novella “Death in Venice.” A rapacious tourist monoculture threatens Venice’s existence, decimating the historic city and turning the Queen of the Adriatic into a Disneyfied shopping mall.

Millions of tourists pour into Venice’s streets and canals each year, profoundly altering the population and the economy, as many native citizens are banished from the island city and those who remain have no choice but to serve in hotels, restaurants and shops selling glass souvenirs and carnival masks.

Tourism is tearing apart Venice’s social fabric, cohesion and civic culture, growing ever more predatory. The number of visitors to the city may rise even further now that international travelers are avoiding destinations like Turkey and Tunisia because of fears of terrorism and unrest. This means that the 2,400 hotels and other overnight accommodations the city now has no longer satisfy the travel industry’s appetites. The total number of guest quarters in Venice’s historic center could reach 50,000 and take it over entirely.

Just along the Grand Canal, Venice’s main waterway, the last 15 years have seen the closure of state institutions, judicial offices, banks, the German Consulate, medical practices and stores to make way for 16 new hotels.

Alarm at this state of affairs led to last month’s decision by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to place Venice on its World Heritage in Danger list unless substantial progress to halt the degradation of the city and its ecosystem is made by next February. Unesco has so far stripped only one city of its status as a heritage site from the more than 1,000 on the list: Dresden, after German authorities ignored Unesco’s 2009 recommendations against building a bridge over the River Elbe that marred the Baroque urban ensemble. Will Venice be next to attain this ignominious status?

In its July report, Unesco’s committee on heritage sites expressed “extreme concern” about “the combination of ongoing transformations and proposed projects threatening irreversible changes to the overall relationship between the City and its Lagoon,” which would, in its thinking, erode the integrity of Venice.

Unesco’s ultimatum stems from several longstanding problems. First, the increasing imbalance between the number of the city’s inhabitants (which plummeted from 174,808 in 1951 to 56,311 in 2014, the most recent year for which numbers are available) and the tourists. Proposed large-scale development, including new deepwater navigation channels and a subway running under the lagoon, would hasten erosion and strain the fragile ecological-urban system that has grown up around Venice.

For now, gigantic cruise liners regularly parade in front of Piazza San Marco, the city’s main public square, mocking the achievements of the last 1,500 years. To mention but one, the M.S.C. Divina is 222 feet high, twice as tall as the Doge’s Palace, a landmark of the city that was built in the 14th century. At times, a dozen liners have entered the lagoon in a single day.

The inept response of the Italian authorities to the very real problems facing Venice gives little hope that this situation will change anytime soon. After the shipwreck of the Costa Concordia in January 2012 off the coast of Tuscany left 32 people dead, the Italian government ruled that megaships must stay at least two miles from shore to prevent similar occurrences in the future. But the Italian government, predictably, failed to stand up to the big money promised by the tourist companies: A loophole to that law was created just for Venice. A cruise liner running ashore in the Piazza San Marco would wreck centuries of irreplaceable history.

Furthermore, after a corruption scandal over a multibillion-dollar lagoon barrier project forced Mayor Giorgio Orsoni to resign in June 2014, he was replaced a year later by Luigi Brugnaro, a booster of Venice’s tourism. Mr. Brugnaro not only fully welcomes the gargantuan ships but has even proposed the sale of millions of dollars of art from the city’s museums to help manage Venice’s ballooning debt.

The destruction of Venice is not in Italy’s best interest, yet the authorities remain paralyzed. Local authorities — the city and the region — are at odds with the government in Rome. Regardless, they have failed to diversify the city’s economy, meaning that any changes would put the few remaining Venetians out of work. To renew Venice’s economic life, new policies are strongly needed, aimed at encouraging young people to stay in the historic city, encouraging manufacturing and generating opportunities for creative jobs — from research to universities and the art world — while reutilizing vacant buildings.

No effective provision on Venice’s behalf has been enforced so far by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, although protection of environment and cultural heritage is among the fundamental principles of the Italian Constitution. Nor are authorities developing any project whatsoever aimed not just at preserving the monuments of Venice, but at ensuring its citizens a future worth living.

If Italy is to spare Venice from further violation by the new plague devouring its beauty and collective memory, it must first review its overall priorities and, abiding by its own Constitution, place cultural heritage, education and research before petty business.