CHARLESTON (AP) — The South Carolina State Ports Authority is appealing a federal judge’s decision tossing out a permit for the agency’s planned $35 million cruise terminal in Charleston.
U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel last month ruled the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not adequately review the terminal’s effects on the city’s historic district and sent the matter back to the Corps for a more complete review.
Attorneys for the authority filed notice late Thursday that they are appealing that decision to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.
Gergel ruled in a lawsuit brought by environmental and neighborhood groups who say the Corps should have more extensively studied the impact of the terminal on the environment and city neighborhoods. The Corps issued a permit allowing the authority to put additional pilings under existing waterfront warehouse.
The pilings are needed to transform the warehouse into a new cruise terminal for the city’s expanded cruise industry. The plaintiffs say that allowing the warehouse to be used for a terminal is a different and more extensive use than permitted in the past.
Attorneys for the Corps said the permit only allows installing five clusters of pilings beneath a structure already permitted for maritime uses.
But Gergel told attorneys for the Corps in no uncertain terms at a hearing last month that a review of the impact of the entire project is required, not just the impacts of the new pilings.
“I think you did an end run,” Gergel chastised attorneys. “You gave this permit a bum’s rush.”
Erin Pabst, a spokeswoman for the Ports Authority, said that because the matter is in court, the agency won’t comment on the appeal.
“The Ports Authority is proceeding with the process provided by law for a new review of the Corps’ authorization for the additional pilings,” she said in an email.
The case is one of three legal challenges to the terminal and the city’s expanded cruise industry.
Another before the state Supreme Court contends the cruises are a public nuisance and violate city zoning ordinances. The third case, in state administrative law court, challenges a state permit for the pier pilings.
Carnival Cruise Lines permanently based its 2,056-passenger liner Fantasy in Charleston in 2010, giving Charleston a year-round cruise industry. Before that, cruises made port calls, but no ships were based in the city.