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Proposed container terminal in North Charleston

Community not happy about access roads
Some oppose the location of terminal
Warwick Jones

It was first an issue about the road that would link the new container terminal in North Charleston to I 26. But the loaction of the new container terminal has become an issue also. Sentiment against the terminal was strong at the public workshop held yesterday at the Gethsemani Community Center in North Charleston and hosted by the Army Corps of Engineers. There were more than a hundred attendees, we estimate. Many were residents of the areas that could be impacted by the new road.

The Corps has made a very detailed study of the project. And as a spokesman said, it is not for or against a particular road, or indeed the project itself. But permits were requested for both the new terminal and a major service road. The issuance of the permits required studies to be made. This the Corps had done, and it now was presenting findings. The report in its full detail of over 700 pages can be found on porteis.com. The meeting yesterday was specifically designed to seek input on the service road that was favored by the Corps. The Corps had narrowed the choice to 6 options but concluded that 1c was the best as it had the least impact on the local communities. The location of this road and the others can be seen by pressing here.

Residents not happy about access roads
Residents may have agreed that the choice of the Corps was the best, and of the alternatives, had the least adverse impact. But that did no make them happy about the chosen road. It still would be an eyesore in the community, a sore exacerbated by its elevation. The potential damage to the community was still large. It was the noise, pollution, the bustle and traffic levels that were of concern.

11,000 trips a day likely
A spokesman for the Corps stated that the traffic generated by the port was estimated at about 11,000 truck trips a day with a peak of about 1100 trips an hour. These levels were about the same as those of the terminals at Daniel Island and the Peninsula. But these projections were at peak port capacity that was not expected to be reached until after 2020. Traffic levels would be much less in the early years after completion in 2011 or thereabouts. Another spokesman said that these traffic levels would not really be much different to those when the Navy still occupied the site; an inference perhaps as to what was all the fuss over?

Other developments need to be considered
Of course much has changed in the last 20 years since the Navy moved out. Charleston has grown substantially and we now have a major development planned in the Neck area, immediately south of the communities affected by the proposed Port. There will be literally thousands of dwelling units constructed in the Neck. The Neck development may well have its own access to I 26, but even so, the Port and its major service road cannot be considered in isolation. A representative of a commercial group on the Neck was most unhappy about all of the possible access roads. The closure of existing roads that link to I 26 to accommodate the new access road would create difficulties for residents and commercial enterprises now in the Neck area, he said.

Why North Charleston?
We know that there will be many in the community who will argue strongly for the new port and perhaps the most vocal will be the City of North Charleston. And the economic reasons will be strong. The gains to the local economy may be great and possibly easy to measure. But it is the cost that is the hardest to measure, and particularly to the mainly African American communities that abut the proposed port. And perhaps their strongest point is this. Daniel Island was the first choice for the site of a new terminal. It was rejected because of the impact on the local community. What is difference between Daniel Island and North Charleston? If the port is not good enough for Daniel Island, why is it good enough for North Charleston? The residents of North Charleston have a point. The differences in color and affluence of the communities do not go unnoticed, and as usual, inflame opinions.

Council members and Senator Ford lend support
County Council members Darby and Pryor were prominent at yesterday's meeting imploring residents to express their views. Don't be intimidated. Your views would be the basis for future action, they said. Lending support, and with a speech riddled with challenges, humor, and anecdotes was Senator Ford. He criticized whoever was responsible for calling a meeting in such a small space. But the size of the turnout was unanticipated and beside, the Corps was reacting to previous comments requesting a meeting within the neighborhood. We agree that the venue was not the best and a fuller discussion and briefing would have been desirable, but as the Senator acknowledged, it really was not the Corps fault. The Senator also suggested that North Charleston was not the best place for the new container terminal. May be there were other options such as near the Naval Weapons Station.

Other options
The Corps did state that there were other options, and comments are contained in its full report. One of these options is on the opposite side of the river, and slightly further north of the proposed terminal in North Charleston. Access roads would not be a problem and few communities would be affected. But a discussion with one of the engineers suggested that the river was a problem here. It was shallow and the turning space for vessels was very limited. Presumably dredging would need to be more extensive. Although we don't really know, we expect the same problem would exist at the Naval Weapons Station that is further up the river.

Issue may go to Council
We don't know where all this will lead. But if the residents of the communities are unhappy about the proposed port and would like it somewhere else, we expect Council members Darby and Pryor to take their grief to County Council. It is conjectural as to how much support they would receive from other members. But we will conjecture that support from Council member Inabinett is highly likely while that from Council member Condon and Chairman Stavrinakis is possible. The chairman of Council has gone on record about the seeming injustice of placing the terminal in North Charleston to save Daniel Island. Support from all these members would represent a majority on Council.

Coastal Conservation League calls for more study
The SC Coastal Conservation League is also unhappy about the proposed container port and the service road. The two major concerns relate to traffic and pollution. It maintains that no consideration has been taken of all the major developments planned in the broad area surrounding the Port. They include the Clemson Research Center, the Noisette project, expansion of the coal facilities at Kinder Morgan, developments around Park Circle and of course the Neck re-development project. Together, these could mean major traffic problems. Nobody is looking at the combined effect. Pollution will come from the exhaust of gasoline and diesel, the later particularly injurious to health. The impact on residents of the communities needs to be studied, it states.

A container port for North Charleston is still a real possibility. But it is by no means a done deal in our view.

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