Port to add environmental affairs chief, other improvements

Image by S.C. State Ports AuthorityImage by 20080623port.jpg The upcoming budget year for the State Ports Authority includes some big spending for the Port of Charleston.

The S.C. State Ports Authority has added a new position to the upcoming year's budget for the Port of Charleston: environmental affairs chief. The position comes on the heels of a partnership between the SPA and the state Dept. of Health and Environmental Control to curb emissions at the port, as well as the authority's new "Pledge for Growth" initiative that focuses on sustainable and environmentally friendly growth options for the port.

From The Post and Courier:

Bernie Groseclose, the SPA's chief executive, said the full-time hire — one of just a few new positions budgeted for the next 12 months — will be in charge of monitoring and coordinating the various environmental programs the maritime agency has waded into. He said the decision to create a green czar position in Charleston is "timely with our mitigation plan under way."

Indeed, the SPA has been pushing to draw more attention to its $12 million environmental mitigation plan, which the authority agreed to fund to help offset some of the negative effects of the $600 million shipping terminal it is building in North Charleston. The various concessions include a $1 million contribution toward the recent Morris Island purchase, $2.5 million for restoring oyster reefs and tidal marsh in Charleston Harbor and $4 million for community improvements such as job training and affordable housing.

In other budget news for the SPA, the authority released a press release last week that described its expense and traffic projections for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1. A large part of the $160 million budget deals with Charleston:

More than $80 million of the anticipated capital spending in the next 12 months will go directly to projects adding new capacity to the SCSPA’s port facilities, primarily in Charleston. Progress and spending is also anticipated on development of a new joint port facility on the Savannah River in Jasper County.

For the SCSPA’s 2009 fiscal year which begins July 1, operating revenues are expected to increase 1.63% to $160.4 million and pier containers are projected to increase just slightly (0.5%) from the current year. The number of employees is projected to increase by nine to 593. Jobs could be added in Port Police and operations, along with a new environmental affairs position.

The SCSPA Board also approved $100.3 million in capital spending in FY09 for capacity enhancements and terminal improvements. The largest allocations of the plan are $56.2 million for the new container terminal at the former Navy Base and $24.7 million for container yard expansion and improvements.

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