CHARLESTON, S.C. — A federal judge wants to hear attorneys argue why a challenge to a $35 million South Carolina cruise terminal should be settled without a trial.
U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel has scheduled arguments for Sept. 12 in the ongoing dispute over a federal permit for the terminal proposed for the Charleston waterfront.
Environmental and neighborhood groups have sued. They say the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should have more extensively studied the impact on the environment and the city’s historic district before issuing a permit allowing the South Carolina State Ports Authority to put additional pilings under a wharf.
The pilings are needed to transform an old warehouse into a new cruise terminal for the city’s expanded cruise industry.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs said in court documents that allowing the warehouse to be used for a cruise terminal is a different and more extensive use than permitted in the past so. They said that means more review is needed under the law. They want the judge to void the permit and block the Corps from allowing any construction without more extensive studies.
Attorneys for the Corps have said the permit is not for a terminal, but only for installing five clusters of pilings beneath a structure that already is permitted for maritime uses.
Both sides have asked Gergel to rule in their favor without trial.
The judge has asked attorneys for both sides to come to next month’s hearing prepared to discuss the issues that would be taken up later if he rules a full trial is needed. A November court date has tentatively been set if the case goes to trial.
The case is one of three legal challenges to the terminal and the city’s expanded cruise industry.
A case before the state Supreme Court contends the cruises are a public nuisance and violate city zoning ordinances. Preservation and environmental groups have sued Carnival Cruise Lines seeking to block cruise operations and have the court declare it illegal to build the terminal.
The third case challenges a state permit issued for the pilings. That goes before a state administrative law judge early next year.
Three years ago, Carnival Cruise Lines permanently based its 2,056-passenger liner Fantasy in Charleston, giving the city a year-round cruise industry. Before that, cruise lines made port calls, but no ships were based in the city.