Army Corps will allow SPA to fund federal staffer

The arrival of bigger, heavier cargo ships is requiring the State Ports Authority to beef up the wharf at its Wando Welch Terminal. The planned improvements will require approval from the Army Corps of Engineers.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has accepted the State Ports Authority’s offer to pay for a federal staffer to work on permits it will need for current and future construction projects.

The newly approved arrangement, which was proposed in September, will expire after five years, according to a public notice published Sunday.

The Army Corps Charleston District said the agreement will expedite the handling of SPA permit requests while ensuring the decision-making process remains impartial, the notice said.

“The funding program will better serve the public interest through more cost-effective processing of

Department of the Army permit applications, enhanced evaluation capability, and a stream-lined permit processing system,” according to the document.

The SPA funds will pay for the salary and other expenses of a project manager who will focus on port permits on an as-needed basis. The exact cost will depend on how much time the federal staffer works on behalf of the state maritime agency.

The practice is allowed under a 2000 water resources act.

The staffer will work on and monitor permits for the proposed cruise passenger building, the future shipping terminal being built on the former Navy base and other projects.

The SPA is the second South Carolina agency to work with the Army Corps in this manner. The state Department of Transportation has had a similar set-up since 2005.

The Army Corps has said the arrangements allow it to work more efficiently because its other staffers can focus on other projects. The benefit for the DOT and now the port is that the one-on-one attention they pay for usually results in speedier permitting.

The SPA has said it sought out the deal because the overall workload at the Army Corps is growing at a time when the port is planning more construction work that will require federal approval. One of the newest big projects is the strengthening of the wharf at the Wando Welch Terminal in Mount Pleasant.

The agreement does not cover the Charleston Harbor deepening project.

Contact John McDermott at 937-5572.