CHARLESTON — Environmental and preservation groups challenging South Carolina’s planned $35 million cruise terminal say the case is of national importance and so should be heard in the nation’s capital, not Charleston.
In court documents filed late last week in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia, the groups oppose a request by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to move the suit to South Carolina.
The suit filed in July seeks to invalidate a corps permit for the project in which the South Carolina State Ports Authority plans to renovate an old warehouse on the Cooper River for the terminal. The port agency wants to put new pilings beneath the structure to support elevators.
The Preservation Society of Charleston and the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League say that under the National Historic Preservation Act there should have been more review of how Charleston’s Historic District will be affected by the terminal.
Attorneys wrote that bypassing the consultation required by the act and “approving a new cruise ship terminal that will impact nationally significant, federally protected properties in one of the country’s most historically intact towns has substantial nationwide ramifications.”
They also noted that the cruise terminal issue locally “has caused considerable local consternation.”
Justice Department attorneys want the case in South Carolina where the plaintiffs are based and where the corps officials who reviewed the project are also based.
But attorneys for the plaintiffs wrote that corps’ attorneys are in Washington and “this case pivots on the application of federal law to nationally significant historic assets by federal agencies located in Washington.”
They also wrote that the D.C. federal court resolves cases more quickly than the courts in South Carolina and the record in the case – a few memoranda from the corps and less than a dozen documents from the plaintiffs –are already before the court.
Environmental and preservation groups as well as neighborhood residents have also sued in state court. That suit alleges that cruise ships are a public nuisance and that city violated its own ordinances in allowing an expanded cruise industry.
Carnival Cruise Lines permanently based the 2,056-passenger Fantasy in Charleston two years ago, giving the city a year-round industry.