Group pushes for alternative cruise terminal sites

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Dozens more letters from Charleston residents and business owners sent to the Army Corps of Engineers urged alternative locations for the proposed $35 million cruise terminal that the state wants to build adjacent to the historic Charleston downtown.

Newly released documents from the SPA reveal no significant reason the proposed facility can’t be built at Veterans Terminal in North Charleston, a site advocated as a better alternative by those residents and business owners. SPA officials have said in the past — without providing any reason — that only Union Pier could support the new cruise terminal. However, documents provided under federal open-records law show no serious obstacles to locating the proposed cruise terminal at Veterans Terminal.

The letters asking for alternative locations add to a groundswell of concern over the South Carolina State Ports Authority’s plans to build a bigger terminal to attract bigger ships, even multiple ships simultaneously, next to the historic district already stressed by traffic congestion. Many of the letters advocated moving the terminal to a state-owned pier outside the downtown.

Veterans Terminal boasts four 1,000-foot piers and some 100,000 square feet building space, and is located near I-26, the Charleston International Airport, and hotels used by cruise passengers. Conservation groups say building a cruise terminal there would avoid impacts to Charleston’s federally protected historic district and could also revitalize an underused state asset. The recently released documents show that, according to SPA, the height of the Ravenel Bridge is not a barrier to locating a cruise terminal in North Charleston.

The documents discussing Veterans Terminal were released as the Army Corps of Engineers considers whether to permit a new cruise terminal in Charleston’s historic downtown. By law, the Corps must evaluate all feasible options for reducing impacts, including alternative locations.

“The public is finally getting to see common sense options for solving the cruise issue in a way that works for everyone,” said Blan Holman, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center who reviewed the documents. “Before now there was a black box. Now the Corps of Engineers is obligated to present clear and complete information on the risks and rewards of all the various options so that we can bring this debate to an end.”

The SPA documents “show the importance of a review process that allows folks to take a step back, and search for the best solution for Charleston and for the region,” Holman said.

“Building this new facility at Veterans Terminal would jumpstart development in the North Charleston area, ease the stress on the Historic District, and allow Charleston to imagine a waterfront that would be an asset to the entire city, not just the cruise industry,” he said.

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