A proposed cruise ship terminal project worth over $35 million and promising countless jobs and other economic boosts to the area is being challenged by no less than three separate lawsuits. A mediation session has been set for January 2014 to resolve one of the lawsuits.
A Federal judge vacated the permit obtained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the terminal project, prompting the Corps and the South Carolina Ports Authority to jointly appeal the decision. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has scheduled a meeting with attorneys in the case for January 7th.
The original lawsuit was brought by a coalition of environmental and community groups seeking to block the terminal project. The judge in the case did not rule on the core questions but rather noted that the permit application lacked adequate review on the potential impact on the city’s historic district.
The cruise industry in Charleston has been growing. Carnival Cruises made Charleston their permanent base for their Fantasy Liner in 2010, bringing a year-round employer to the city. However, opponents are fearful that the cruise industry, which was at one time simply an occasional port of call in Charleston, will overwhelm the small city as cruise lines set up terminals that bring thousands of tourists and outside staff into the city on a constant basis.
The coalition seized upon the vacated permit to demand that further permits issues in accordance with the original permit be invalidated as a result, arguing that if the foundational reviews were missing, all permits are therefore affected. The Appeals Court has made it clear it would prefer a negotiated settlement rather than a court order, and has imposed mediation as a result. There is no information available concerning who will conduct the mediation proceedings. This court-ordered mediation may impact another suit that seeks to have the cruises declared a public nuisance.