My husband and I attended the Army Corps of Engineers hearing on March 12 pertaining to the permitting process needed for the S.C. Port Authority to build a new cruise ship passenger terminal north of the present facility. The Corps deserves credit for a well-run hearing. Many voices and views were heard.
I learned that, although this is a complex issue, the majority of the views expressed were against granting the required permit. For example, having a cruise terminal in downtown was not in keeping with the historic area. Having a cruise terminal in downtown causes such traffic congestion that residents can’t get in or out of their homes. Two doctors testified to the danger of cruise ship particulate emissions to our health, as well as, soot on our houses. These are not small issues.
In addition, I learned the S.C. Ports Authority is not beholden to city historic zoning. Apparently, a state agency trumps a city’s wishes. Except for this required permit, the city doesn’t have much recourse. A woman who worked at the Ports Authority brought up a good point: Essentially, the Cruise Terminal is either going to be in its present site or the contested site to the north. In other words, the pollution, the traffic congestion, the blight to the historic district will still be with us.
I learned that the money from Carnival Cruise Lines for docking in Charleston goes to the Ports Authority, not to the city. Ah, money. Could that be the key to a solution? Speakers talked about moving the whole operation to the old Navy base in North Charleston. That sounds like a good idea. At the Navy Base, the Ports Authority can expand its offerings and make even more money, and Charleston can avoid all the problems inherent in the present situation.
What about taking advantage of the rail connection between the Navy Base and downtown Charleston? Is it possible for the city to offer something to sweeten the deal along the line of transportation to and from the downtown?
Moving the terminal there could also wake that area up, with hotels and restaurants springing up. Maybe North Charleston will see the potential for development and offer assistance.
By denying the permit required for the new terminal, the Ports Authority would be left with a great option for growth and more money — to leave downtown. That would be win-win-win, for Charleston, the Ports Authority and North Charleston.
Alice P. Wakefield