On December 13th, the Charleston District hosted a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) public scoping meeting for the Charleston Harbor Post 45 deepening feasibility study. The meeting, which was held at The Citadel, was mutually beneficial for both the public and the Charleston District. The meeting served as a forum for the public to learn more about the project and for them to provide comments to the Charleston District on any concerns they may have about the engineering, economic or environmental (the three “E’s”) aspects of the project that need to be taken into consideration during the study. Valuable insight on the project was gained by the Charleston District through the receipt of comments from the public.
The meeting began with opening comments from Lt. Col. Ed Chamberlayne, Charleston District Commander, and Jim Newsome, CEO of the South Carolina State Ports Authority (SCSPA). Attendees from the public were then able to walk around and visit stations set up for the three “E’s.” There was also a display from the SCSPA, an educational video on the feasibility study process and numerous stations for commenting.
Public participation is an important part of the feasibility study process. Throughout the workshop, the public was able to interact with team members and discuss issues related to the different aspects of this study. The public could use written or electronic means to provide comments on their concerns. The comments received were in support of the District’s preparation of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the study.
The Charleston District will be reviewing several alternatives in the feasibility study and will focus on the three “E’s.” The engineering feasibility takes into account if the project can be built, what must be done to make it safe and what the cost will be. The economic studies will answer questions such as “Do the benefits versus the costs make this project worthwhile?” “How does the nation benefit from this project?” and “How much benefit will the nation receive?” Environmental issues to address in the DEIS will include, but are not limited to; air, surface/ground water and sediment quality, fish habitats and endangered species, shoreline changes, and cultural and historical resources.
A feasibility study determines the most economically beneficial and environmentally acceptable alternative proposed. In the feasibility phase, the cost-share is split 50-50 between the federal government and the sponsor, the SCSPA, but the study will be conducted by the Charleston District.
In order to keep pace with the future of maritime commerce worldwide, the SCSPA has requested the harbor be deepened to accommodate larger vessels that are becoming more common and will be heavily used upon completion of the new Panama Canal in 2014. To this point, some of the larger container ships have begun to call on Charleston Harbor, but can only come at high-tide or not fully loaded, causing inefficiencies in transportation.
A typical USACE feasibility study takes between 5-8 years to complete, but for this $18-20 million study, the Charleston District is striving for less time with innovative and aggressive measures (see page 6). This will include using best practices where applicable, streamlining the review and approval process, and using subject matter experts from around the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the Charleston team. The feasibility study will identify the National Economic Development (NED) plan that maximizes the net benefits to the nation related to deepening the federal channel.