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17 September 2021 The on-line newspaper devoted to the world of transports 17:54 GMT+2

July 9, 2001

S.C. port expansion scrutiny increases

Environment, traffic impact draw opposition as auditors review need

Associated Press

CHARLESTON -- S.C. lawmakers are expressing mixed feelings about the State Ports Authority's proposal to build a new container terminal on Daniel Island just as auditors prepare to examine the need for such a project.

The Legislative Audit Council last month said it will study sources of statistics used to justify a new terminal and whether the ports authority considered sites other than Daniel Island.

Some legislators say the agency has not made a good impression with the public.

"I think there's a certain degree of arrogance there in their unwillingness to deal with the community," said Rep. Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston.

While Harrell and other lawmakers say they have not closed the door to building on Daniel Island, they say the ports authority has not handled the issue well.

"They have played their political hand very poorly," said Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston.

In 1997, the ports authority proposed building a $1.2 billion Global Gateway terminal on Daniel Island that would add 12 new shipping berths, using more than half of a 1,300-acre tract the ports authority has owned for nearly a decade.

The plan was based on an agreement with the city of Charleston in the early 1990s, after it annexed Daniel Island. It would have increased the number of shipping berths the port operates from nine to 21.

The proposal was withdrawn earlier this year after local politicians and other residents voiced their opposition to the terminal's size, increased traffic and environmental impact.

Port officials announced that expansion would only occur on the Cooper River side of Daniel Island, with the number of berths yet to be determined. The $529 million terminal would cost less than half of the original proposal.

"I think we've taken a public beating," said Bernie Groseclose, the port's president and chief executive officer.

On a recent boat trip around the proposed site, College of Charleston biology professor Phillip Dustan, an adamant opponent of Daniel Island expansion, pointed to several trucks rumbling across the Cooper River on the highway bridge above.

"That truck traffic will all come over here," he said. "It's insane."

Port officials say growth in the community will account for much of the increased traffic. A study of traffic commissioned by the port found that overall traffic on Interstate 526 would grow by only 7 percent under the proposal.

Byron Miller, the ports authority's public relations manager, said traffic is an issue the port must address. But in terms of its actual impact, he called it "a big so-what."

Sally Knowles, assistant chief of the DHEC Bureau of Water, said the biggest concern about expansion involves plans to deepen the shipping channel in Charleston Harbor from its current level of 42 feet.

"With a deeper channel, you expect lower dissolved oxygen," she said. "It could mean even tighter permit limits for the dischargers."

Groseclose said it was hard to say how the dissolved oxygen issue might affect expansion plans until the regulations are finalized.
(The Charlotte Observer)

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