WASHINGTON (CN) – A coalition of environmental and historic preservation groups want a federal judge to invalidate the permit for a $35 million cruise ship terminal that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to build in Charleston, S.C.
In their lawsuit, the S.C. Coastal Conservation League and Preservation Society of Charleston claim the Corps failed to conduct an adequate review of how an expansion of the cruise ship industry in Charleston would impact the city’s historic district.
They also claim the Corps unlawfully issued a permit for the S.C. State Ports Authority for the project by classifying it as “maintenance.” The Ports Authority intends to refurbish a cargo transfer shed, converting it into passenger terminal.
“The Corps’ mischaracterization of the terminal project as ‘maintenance’ with no possible new effects included other legal violations, including a complete failure to consider the environmental impacts of locating a large cruise ship terminal in a densely populated urban area,” the plaintiffs says.
They continue, “The National Environmental Policy Act requires the Corps to evaluate how its decision to authorize the project will affect the human environment, including historic properties and the health of Charleston’s citizens. Along with violations summarized above, this violation of NEPA requires that the Corps’ authorization of the project… be declared void.”
An expansion of cruise ship activity has been a hot-button issue in Charleston in recent years, as the Ports Authority seeks to diversify and expand its business portfolio.
Although the port city has always had some cruise ship activity – even witnessing a call by the Queen Mary II several years ago – that activity grew considerably after Carnival Corp. permanently based its 2,056 passenger cruise liner Fantasy in Charleston in 2010.
Last year, the National Trust for Historic Preservation placed Charleston on “watch status,” warning that the growth of cruise industry in the city could result in the city being added to its list of endangered places.
The plaintiffs last year sued Carnival Cruise Lines, alleging that its ships violate the city’s longstanding sign and height ordinances and constitute illegal hotel operations. A hearing on Carnival’s motion to dismiss is scheduled for July 12.
The coalition seeks a declaration that the Corps’ permit is unlawful and void and an injunction against any construction activity at the terminal site until the agency conducts a review that complies with the NEPA and the National Historic Preservation Act.
They are represented by D.J. Gerken of the Southern Environmental Law Center in Asheville, N.C.