The Army Corps of Engineers and the State Ports Authority have halted their challenge of a judge's decision that nixed a permit the SPA needed to build a new cruise terminal in downtown Charleston.
They filed the joint notice of withdrawal of appeal with the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., on Monday.
The move came a day before a mediator for the court was scheduled to meet with attorneys representing both sides in the appeal. The case centered on an Army Corps permit for pilings the SPA needs to drive to convert a warehouse into a $35 million passenger terminal at Union Pier.
Blan Holman, managing attorney for the Charleston office of the Southern Environmental Law Center and a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said the withdrawal was a victory for the public.
"The government's lawyers must have realized that a so-called maintenance permit issued in secret to build a $35 million cruise terminal was indefensible," Holman said in a statement. "Too bad we had to resort to litigation to get here, but the good news is that the public will now have the chance to weigh in on how and where cruise operations should continue in the Charleston region. It's never too late to get something big right - just look at the Ravenel Bridge."
In September, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Gergel ruled that the Army Corps did not fully review the effects the project would have on the city's historic district, saying the permitting agency gave the study "a bum's rush." He then ordered the Army Corps to redo the study with a more extensive review. The Army Corps will be reviewing what to do next, said spokeswoman Glenn Jeffries.
The SPA said in statement that it will "reserve its legal concerns regarding the district court's decision for later review, if necessary, following additional action by the Corps."
"We look forward to the next steps in consultation with the Corps relative to successfully renovating an existing warehouse into a replacement passenger terminal," according to the statement
The Coastal Conservation League and the Preservation Society of Charleston filed the lawsuit after the Army Corps issued a permit allowing the five pilings to be driven on the waterfront.
The opposition groups have said the agency didn't take into account the impact on historic properties that surround the area.
The SPA, which joined the lawsuit as a defendant, has been seeking to relocate its cruise terminal to the north end of Union Pier from the south end for about three years.
The case is one of three legal challenges regarding expanded cruise operations in Charleston.
Reach Tyrone Richardson at 937-5550 or twitter.com/tyrichardsonPC.
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