S.C. port expansion scrutiny increases
Environment, traffic impact draw opposition as auditors review
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
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The proposal was withdrawn earlier this year after local politicians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.
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
"With a deeper channel, you expect lower dissolved oxygen,"
she said. "It could mean even tighter permit limits for the
Groseclose said it was hard to say how the dissolved oxygen issue
might affect expansion plans until the regulations are finalized.
(The Charlotte Observer)