By Matt Tomsic
Published Jan. 8, 2013
The S.C. State Ports Authority is asking the state Department of Health and Environmental Control to deny a request for review of a permit issued for a new cruise terminal in Charleston.
The ports authority filed its response with the DHEC board Monday. Last week, the South Carolina Environmental Law Project filed the request on behalf of the Preservation Society of Charleston, the Charleston Communities for Cruise Control, the Historic Ansonborough Neighborhood Association, the Coastal Conservation League, the Charlestowne Neighborhood Association, the Anson House Condominium Owners Association and the Charleston Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.
The organizations are asking the board to host a review proceeding and to reverse the permit or to send the decision back to DHEC’s staff so it can analyze alternative terminal locations, require onshore power and make the conditions of the S.C. State Ports Authority’s voluntary limits mandatory.
In its response, the ports authority argues the issues posed by the request have been vetted by staff at DHEC’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management.
“This (request), along with the companion request filed by the Historic Charleston Foundation, constitute the third and fourth legal actions filed on behalf of these same parties,” according to the ports authority’s response. “As this (request) appears to be nothing more than a broader litigation strategy of opponents across several courts and venues, it is in the best interest of the ports authority, DHEC, Charleston and the state of South Carolina for a speedy resolution from the courts, and the ports authority respectfully requests that the board decline conducting a final review conference in this matter so this matter may proceed directly to the (administrative law court) for disposition to allow this project — which has a positive net gain for both the economy and the environment — (to) move forward.”
DHEC issued the permit for the cruise terminal in December, allowing the ports authority to install five pilings into the northern end of Union Pier, the location of the new terminal. The pilings will be used to support three elevators and two escalators. The permit also allows the ports authority to modify Building 322, a warehouse that will become the terminal.
The permit included a special condition that operations for the new passenger terminal follow voluntary guidelines agreed to by the city of Charleston and the ports authority. According to the guidelines, cruise ship calls will not be more than 104 per year; the port will host one ship at a time at the terminal; and each cruise ship’s size will hold between 1,900 and 3,500 passengers, similar in size to cruise ships that have called on Charleston.
The permit also calls for the ports authority to notify DHEC of any changes to the voluntary agreement, and those notifications must be made at least one year before the changes take effect.
“Upon being notified, DHEC will evaluate any proposed changes to determine if a new (or) additional permit or certification is necessary,” said Mark Plowden, a spokesman for DHEC, in an email. “DHEC is not a direct party to the voluntary agreement between the city and (ports authority), and the permit does not require (the ports authority) to report its compliance with the voluntary agreement directly to DHEC. However, compliance with the issued permit will be contingent in part on compliance with the voluntary agreement.”