SPA makes first payment toward $4.08M promise

Aerial view of the southern end of the former naval base that is the site of a proposed expansion of State Ports Authority.

The State Ports Authority on Wednesday doled out the first installment of more than $4 million it plans to pay to offset the negative effects of a shipping terminal it is proposing to build on the former Charleston Naval base.

The $750,000 check was presented to officials from the city and the Lowcountry Alliance for Model Communities, a onetime opponent to the port expansion plan.

The SPA has pledged to pay a total of $4.08 million by the time the first phase of the new three-berth terminal opens in 2013.

"There is a great deal of hope right now that the port will bring some positive changes in the community, but after today ... (that's) when the real work begins," said Bill Stanfield, a Chicora-Cherokee resident and interim member of the community group.

The Lowcountry Alliance was set up about two years ago as residents who would be directly affected by the Navy base terminal expressed concerns about air quality and truck traffic that the port project would generate.

Michael Brown, the alliance's president and city councilman whose district includes most of the affected neighborhoods, said the group might spend the first allotment of money on a master plan that would outline landscaping and beautification needs.

Future payments will be used to fund a handful of other projects, including setting up an affordable housing trust, installing air quality monitoring devices and improving community centers.

The terminal is to be built on the south end of the Navy base. Construction crews have begun demolishing old warehouse buildings on the property, even as the permits for the port expansion project are being challenged in a lawsuit filed by the Charleston-based Coastal Conservation League.

The environmental watchdog group brought its complaint against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers late last month, saying the federal agency failed to adequately examine all of the environmental and traffic-related effects before it gave the project clearance to proceed.

Bernard Groseclose Jr., the SPA's president and chief executive, said he did not expect the lawsuit to hold up the long-delayed expansion of the Port of Charleston.

"We see this as a bump in the road," Groseclose said