FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Ports Authority Environmental, Community Mitigation Package Eclipses $10 Million
Charleston, SC – Port expansion at the former Charleston Navy Base will include funds to help preserve Morris Island and carry out a host of other environmental and community mitigation activities in the local area.
The Trust for Public Land will receive funds to protect Morris Island as part of a multi-million dollar plan aimed at mitigating environmental and community impacts of port expansion at the former Charleston Navy Base.
When the long-anticipated Final Environmental Impact Statement for port expansion is released tomorrow, it will be accompanied by what is perhaps the largest single environmental mitigation plan in the state's history.
The Ports Authority has been proactive in the mitigation process, working with environmental and community groups. In addition to operational and construction measures that will avoid and minimize negative impacts, the plan includes more than $10 million in mitigation activities.
A keystone component in the mitigation plan are funds to protect the 126-acre Morris Island site as a public space for future generations, an effort that has generated tremendous public, corporate and political support.
“This contribution by the State Ports Authority takes us much closer to our goal of raising the $5 million we need to secure Morris Island for public ownership and initiate the process by which it can be responsibly managed,” said Slade Gleaton, The Trust for Public Land's South Carolina director. “As the Charleston area grows, these special places will become more and more important,” says Gleaton. “This is our last chance to ensure that Morris Island will belong not to one company or individual, but to the entire community.”
The more than 70-page mitigation program summarizes the environmental consequences of port expansion and provides solutions to reduce, rectify and compensate for direct and indirect impacts. The plan also includes mitigation for the dedicated Port Access Road that will connect the terminal to I-26.
“The Ports Authority is committed to responsible development,” said Bernard S. Groseclose Jr., the Ports Authority's president and CEO. “We're addressing the impacts of port development in a fair and very thorough way.”
When compared to similar large-scale projects, the Ports Authority's mitigation effort is certainly aggressive. Mitigation activity for the recently permitted APM terminal in Portsmouth, Virginia, which impacted about three times as much acreage, totaled $6.7 million. The Vought mitigation activity for 40 acres of impact in North Charleston was $4.75 million. Port expansion at the former Navy Base will impact about 10 acres of tidal marsh, 2 acres of freshwater wetlands and 57 acres of sub-tidal bottom fill.
To offset indirect environmental impacts and serve the public interest, the Ports Authority's mitigation plan includes support for large-scale land preservation efforts. With advice from The Trust for Public Land and The Nature Conservancy, the plan includes $1 million for the Morris Island protection effort and $1 million toward protecting land through the Cooper River Initiative, a broad-based consortium of environmental agencies and groups.
To deal with direct impacts to aquatic resources and wetlands, the Ports Authority will recreate 22 acres of tidal marsh at a site in the lower harbor, restore more than five miles of oyster reefs in and around Charleston Harbor and purchase mitigation bank credits. These projects are expected to total another $2.5 million.
In addition to the traditional environmental mitigation, the Ports Authority, the City of North Charleston and surrounding neighborhoods worked for months on initiatives to ensure the most positive impact from the terminal. This culminated in May with an agreement for $4 million in community programming to fund education and job training programs, establish an affordable housing trust and other projects.
For the first time in any port-related mitigation plan, the Ports Authority has included activities specifically to address any impacts on the surrounding community.
“The City and the Ports Authority have collectively raised the bar in terms of public involvement throughout this process,” wrote Michael A. Brown, president of the Lowcountry Alliance for Model Communities, in a letter supporting the mitigation plan. LAMC is a group that represents seven neighborhoods around the terminal site and dealt with port expansion issues.
The Ports Authority will also make available a three-acre site for the benefit of the recently announced Clemson Restoration Institute on the former Navy Base.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to release its Final Environmental Impact Statement on Friday. A record of decision is expected in April 2007.