A crowd of nearly 200 people packed into the Chicora School of Communications in North Charleston, S.C., to hear about Palmetto Railways’ proposal to develop a 90-acre Intermodal Container Transfer Facility at the former Charleston Navy Base and make improvements to existing rail lines and local roadways.
The gathering was a public scoping meeting to present preliminary information about the proposed project, solicit comments from residents, and provide information about the Environmental Impact Statement that is being prepared by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District to evaluate the proposed project.
Residents were given the opportunity to attend an open house before the meeting where they could look at displays about the proposed project. Representatives of the Charleston District and Palmetto Railways were on-hand during this time to talk one-on-one with residents and try to answer their questions.
After the open house, Lt. Col. John Litz, district commander, addressed the crowd and Nat Ball, regulatory project manager, discussed the Corps’ role and responsibilities during the preparation of the EIS. According to Ball, the District will spend about one year studying potential impacts to the human and natural environment, such as wetlands, air quality, traffic and noise.
"We need your help to identify potential impacts and specific concerns within your community," said Ball to attendees. "Public participation is essential to the regulatory process."
Aside from questions about environmental impacts, attendees like local small business owners were concerned about how access to their businesses would be affected by additional trains and what economic benefits may be generated as a result. Others were concerned about noise and health issues and asked for updates throughout the process.
"We anticipate that a draft EIS will be released for public review and a public hearing will be held in the fall or winter of 2014," said Ball. "Agency and public comments that are submitted in response to the draft EIS will be addressed in a final EIS that will be released sometime in 2015."
One source of confusion for many people was why a study was being done when a study had already been completed. The District prepared an EIS and issued a Department of the Army permits for a new port facility and port access road at the southern end of the former Charleston Navy Base in 2007. The new study will look at potential impacts associated with the ICTF and will also update many of the studies that were conducted in 2007 in order to address cumulative impacts associated with the operation of the ICTF, the new port facility, the port access road, and other ongoing developments in the surrounding area.
For additional information about the proposed Navy Base ICTF project, visit www.navybaseictf.com.