By Matt Tomsic
Published Jan. 9, 2013
Staff at the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control is asking its board to affirm a permit issued for a new cruise terminal in Charleston following a request from Lowcountry organizations to review the permit.
Last week, the South Carolina Environmental Law Project asked the DHEC board to review a permit issued for the new cruise terminal on Union Pier. The group filed a request for review 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. On Monday, the S.C. State Ports Authority responded to the request and asked the board to deny it.
DHEC staff also responded to the request, addressing shore-side power, limitations to Lowcountry cruise operations and other issues included by the South Carolina Environmental Law Project in its request for review.
Staff wrote the long-term effects of the new terminal wouldn’t impact development on the area or the architectural integrity of Charleston’s historic district.
“Additionally, the long-range cumulative effect of this project will not have any substantive impact to the general character of the area because the general character of this area has been for more than a century an existing commercial pier, S.C. State Ports Authority’s Union Pier, with grandfathered activities that include cargo and cruise ship operations,” staff wrote.
DHEC also does not have the authority to regulate cruise ship calls per year, staff wrote, though the permit did include a special condition that requires the ports authority to notify the state agency if it plans on changing its voluntary agreement of no more than 104 ship calls per year, one ship at a time at Union Pier and other criteria.
Staff also addressed shore-side power.
“The cruise ships that will call at this facility are not equipped to connect with shore power,” staff wrote. “Shore power is prohibitively expensive infrastructure. Shore power is extremely costly and is usually only required in areas that face air quality challenges. Charleston does not face the air quality challenges.”
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 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 DHEC board is scheduled to act on the request to review the permit during its Thursday board meeting.