Cruise terminal opponents want SC permit tossed

BRUCE SMITH Associated Press Published:

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) -- Now that a judge has tossed out a federal permit for South Carolina's proposed $35 million passenger cruise terminal, opponents of the project say a state permit should be invalidated as well.

In September, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel invalidated a federal permit for the project that would transform an old waterfront warehouse into a cruise terminal. He ruled the Army Corps of Engineers, in allowing additional pilings to be placed under the warehouse for the terminal, did not adequately consider the project's effects on Charleston's historic district.

The state Department of Health and Environmental Control issued a permit almost a year ago allowing the pilings and certifying the project complies with state coastal rules. Opponents, including conservation, preservation and neighborhood groups, appealed in state Administrative Law Court.

In a Nov. 1 filing with Ralph King Anderson, the chief judge of the Administrative Law Court, opponents say that with the federal permit invalidated, the state permit must be vacated as well.

Jessie White of the South Carolina Environmental Law Project wrote the state permit required a water quality review. That review was encompassed by issuing the federal permit but, now that permit has been tossed out, the state must conduct its own review.

Without such a review, the motion said, "the permit and certification are invalid and must be vacated."

Anderson has scheduled a Jan. 27 hearing in the case.

But if the state permit and certification are invalid "this honorable court should not expend its valuable resources or the resources of the parties evaluating what is, in essence and in law, a dead letter," the motion said.

The State Ports Authority has until month's end to respond to the motion.

The agency will be in court next week when the state Supreme Court hears arguments in a separate lawsuit alleging that cruises in Charleston are a public nuisance. The Ports Authority is also appealing Gergel's ruling to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Terminal opponents say they are not against cruises, but want limits so the number of passengers doesn't overwhelm the city. Supporters say the city will only be a niche market and the industry is being appropriately regulated.

The debate has been ongoing for several years. Carnival Cruise Lines permanently based its 2,056-passenger liner Fantasy in Charleston more than three years ago. Before that, cruise liners made port calls, but no ships were based in Charleston.