Court gets final arguments in cruise terminal permit suit

The State Ports Authority wants to move its cruise ship terminal to the north end of Union Pier Terminal from the south end (above).

Attorneys have put their final written arguments before an appeals court in a challenge of a permit for a contentious $35 million Charleston cruise passenger terminal.

Final briefs were filed this month in a challenge to a state Department of Health and Environmental Control permit issued back in 2012. The court has not yet set a date for oral arguments.

The State Ports Authority announced five years ago it plans to replace its aging cruise terminal with a new one by renovating an old waterfront warehouse. The permit allows placing five additional clusters of pilings in the water beneath the warehouse where there are now 1,008 clusters.

Administrative Law Judge Ralph K. Anderson upheld the permit in April 2014 saying the opponents, who contend the new terminal will hurt property values, the quality of life and increase pollution, lacked standing to appeal.

He found they failed to present “specific, admissible facts to support their allegations and statements.” After the judge’s ruling, the preservation, conservation and neighborhood groups opposing the permit appealed to the state Court of Appeals.

The terminal has also been the subject of a federal lawsuit.

A federal permit was tossed out in 2013 when a judge ruled the Army Corps of Engineers incorrectly considered only the impact of pilings on the water and not the impact of the terminal on the Historic District.

The Army Corps has said its review for the federal permit will now be more extensive.

Opponents have suggested the terminal be built at a terminal farther up the Cooper River where it won’t affect the Historic District.

Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the State Ports Authority, has said there is no room for the passenger terminal there and it’s especially needed for freight after Volvo announced this month that it is building its first U.S. plant in nearby Berkeley County.

The new passenger terminal was first proposed after Carnival Cruise Lines permanently based it 2,056-passenger liner Fantasy in Charleston. The Fantasy is being repositioned next year to be replaced with the Carnival Ecstasy.