FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
By Bernard S. Groseclose, Jr. - President & CEO
South Carolina State Ports Authority
The Ports Authority is once again fairly evaluating all reasonable options for future port expansion to serve the needs of businesses in the Upstate and across South Carolina. The resulting analysis will be absolutely vital for South Carolinians as we determine the future course of our port system, the state's avenue to world markets.
It is now understood by reasonable people in Charleston and throughout the state that to meet the international shipping needs of South Carolina industry, we must move forward with plans to expand our state's primary port in Charleston. It is no longer a question of "if," but "where?"
Assuming only modest 5.8% annual trade growth, in the very near future the port will experience a shortage of capacity, which will influence our ability to serve manufacturers. This is significant because the port has consistently exceeded its projections for future port growth. In fiscal 2000, volume increased 16%. Through the first quarter of this fiscal year, volume is 11% higher than the same period last year. Considering the lead-time required to construct new port facilities, preparations must begin immediately.
The initial proposal to meet this demand was the Global Gateway Terminal on Daniel Island in Charleston harbor. After an exhaustive site evaluation process that began in the late 1980s, the Ports Authority purchased 1,300 acres of former dredge disposal sites, which neighbored several thousand additional acres of undeveloped property.
In a very public debate, the City of Charleston approved the appropriate zoning and land use plan. Development agreements were reached between the city, the Ports Authority and the developer for light and noise standards, traffic separation, access corridors, berms and buffers - all before the first home or office was constructed on the island. Clearly, the port was a part of Daniel Island development from the very beginning in 1992 and comes as no surprise to local residents.
After Base Closure was announced in 1993, the Ports Authority suspended work on Daniel Island at the request of the community to focus on the potential for port development on the former Navy Base. The initial proposal for redevelopment of the Base included a port, but progress was impossible due to local political and public opposition to a container port facility. By 1995, zoning laws precluded a container terminal on the Base and the Ports Authority Board resolved that efforts should return to Daniel Island.
In 1997, the Ports Authority began what is without question the most open and visible public permitting process in South Carolina's history. We even asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to go beyond the established realm of recognized public meetings and create a series of new opportunities for public involvement. Although the Ports Authority has been barraged by dozens of nuisance FOIA requests, we have responded to every single request.
During this open process, vocal opposition to the initial proposal by local neighborhoods and environmental activists has focused primarily on quality of life issues, such as traffic, lights and noise, and the ultimate size of port development.
Acknowledging the local opposition, while also recognizing the dire need to move forward on port expansion, the Ports Authority Board stepped away from the initial proposal and requested an analysis of three options. We have been listening to the public and we have heard their concerns. This is reflected in the alternatives to be further reviewed.
The sites to be considered are about half of the Ports Authority's property on Daniel Island, a site in Jasper County on the Savannah River, and portions of the former Charleston Naval Base. On November 15, we will present a report of the technical, engineering, infrastructure and environmental issues relating to each site, along with timing and cost considerations.
Despite unfounded charges by local opponents of port expansion, the Ports Authority will prepare the most comprehensive and reasonable analysis possible. We will continue to present all of the considerations in the same professional manner that we manage the nation's most productive port.
It is my personal commitment to provide our Board and the people of South Carolina all of the facts on these sites - facts on which the most educated decision can be made. This decision should reflect the concerns of the community, as well as commercial needs of the port and South Carolina industry.