Groups challenge state regulators permit for cruise terminal
A group of more than a half-dozen neighborhood associations and preservationists are asking state environmental regulators to rescind a recent permit allowing the State Ports Authority to build a new cruise terminal in downtown Charleston.
WHO’S INVOLVED: The appeal was filed on behalf of Preservation Society of Charleston, Communities for Cruise Control, Historic Ansonborough Neighborhood Association, the Coastal Conservation League, Charlestowne Neighborhood Association, Anson House Condominium Owners Association, and the Charleston chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.
WHAT’S NEXT: DHEC board has 60 days to determine if a final review is needed. If no review is scheduled, the staff-issued permit stands.
BEYOND THAT: The opposition’s next option would be to file an appeal with the S.C. Administrative Law Court.
The S.C. Environmental Law Project filed an appeal this week with the S.C Department of Health and Environmental Control, asking the agency’s board to review and reverse its staff’s Dec. 18 permit approval.
Wednesday’s appeal adds to lawsuits that have been filed to dock the cruise terminal project, including one pending before the state Supreme Court.
SPA spokeswoman Allison Skipper said the agency was looking into the appeal Thursday.
“We are still reviewing the filing and will provide an appropriate response,” she said.
The latest challenge to the project says DHEC’s staff failed to thoroughly consider the effects a new cruise terminal would have on human health, livability and historic structures.
“They should reverse the decision of the staff,” said Dana Beach, executive director of the Coastal Conservation League.
Wednesday’s filing said DHEC failed to look at “cumulative impacts on the general character of the area,” with regards to the historic skyline, water view obstructions, the gridlock on small neighborhood streets, and the pleasure vessels belching fumes into the area.
The SPA wants to relocate its cruise passenger building to a vacant warehouse at the north end of Union Pier, near Laurens Street. The current structure is farther south, near the end of Market Street.
The DHEC permit allows the SPA to install five pilings under Union Pier to support elevators and escalators at the proposed site.
The appeal asks the department’s board to reverse the permit approval or consider alternative locations and require that cruise ships use shore-based power sources rather than their engines to reduce air pollution.
The dispute has been raging for several years. It heated up in 2010 when Carnival Cruise Lines permanently based its 2,056-passenger liner Fantasy at Union Pier, giving the city a year-round pleasure-ship industry for the first time.
Neighborhood associations and the other groups have opposed the new terminal site, saying it will bring more tourists, traffic congestion and fumes to the historic district. They also have raised quality-of-life concerns and called for limits on cruise operations.
DHEC included terms in the permit between the SPA and city of Charleston that limit the size of cruise ships and the number of annual calls to 104. The SPA would have to give written notice and hold public meetings before altering limits.
Reach Tyrone Richardson at 843-937-5550 and follow him on Twitter @tyrichardsonPC.