US Army Corps of Engineers appealing SC cruise terminal ruling to 4th Circuit

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers filed papers this week appealing a federal judge’s decision tossing out a permit for the agency’s planned $35 million cruise terminal in Charleston.

On Monday, attorneys for the Army Corps appealed that decision to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.

The Army Corps is opposing a September decision by U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel, who ruled that the agency didn’t adequately review the terminal’s effects on the city’s historic district, sending it back for further governmental review.

Gergel’s ruling was part of a lawsuit brought by environmental and neighbourhood groups who argue that the Corps should have more extensively studied the harmful effects the terminal would have on the environment and city neighbourhoods.

The Corps issued a permit allowing the authority to put additional pilings under an existing waterfront warehouse, which is planned to become a new cruise terminal for the city’s expanded industry. The plaintiffs have argued that allowing the warehouse to be used for a terminal is a different and more extensive use than what was permitted in the past.

Attorneys for the Corps have said that the permit only allows installing five clusters of pilings beneath a structure already permitted for maritime uses. But in court earlier this year, Gergel told attorneys for the Corps 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.”

The South Carolina State Ports Authority is also appealing Gergel’s decision. Both requests have been consolidated for the purposes of appeal, and briefs are due next month.

The case is one of three legal challenges to the terminal and the city’s expanded cruise industry. The state Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in a dispute over whether 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. A hearing in that matter is scheduled for January.

Carnival Cruise Lines permanently based its 2,056-passenger liner Fantasy in Charleston in 2010, giving the city a year-round industry. Before that, cruises made port calls, but no ships were based in the city.


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