The North Carolina State Ports Authority postponed indefinitely its proposed new container terminal on the Cape Fear River downriver from Wilmington in the face of strong opposition from towns along the state’s coast.
The NCSPA said Wednesday it will stop working on the North Carolina International terminal port near Southport, which it projected as a "state-of-the-market gateway to the world's economy" able to compete with the top harbors along the East Coast.
The authority "has heard and respects the concerns voiced by local communities and our elected officials and is placing the proposed N.C. International Terminal project on hold," it said in a statement.
“It’s an indefinite postponement,” said Karen Fox, a spokesperson for NC Ports. “We’re looking at all other options for deepwater ports in North Carolina,” including those at other ports up and down the coast of the state.
Other options would include the expansion of existing facilities at the state’s other ports in Wilmington and Morehead City.
The proposed deepsea terminal downriver from Wilmington was designed to handle the large post-Panamax container ships that will start coming through the Panama Canal after it completes its third set of locks in 2014, but environmental opposition proved too strong to get the project through the complex approval process required to start work on it.
The announcement comes three weeks after the authority said it hoped to press ahead despite lack of funding from state lawmakers for a $10 million feasibility study and opposition from Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., who represents the area. The state and federal governments would have shared the cost of the study.
The proposed cargo terminal was projected to cost $2 billion to $3 billion when it was built on 600 acres along the Cape Fear River north of Southport, about 30 miles east of the South Carolina border and about four miles from the ocean.
In the five years since the project's inception, the authority spent about $10 million on planning, interest payments on the property, and legal and financial fees, ports officials have said.
Opponents last spring filed a complaint challenging the conclusions of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reconnaissance study as overoptimistic.
Another large new container port project in Jasper County, South Carolina, has also been put on hold, but planning and some preliminary work is continuing on the project.
The schedule for construction of the project, which is being managed jointly by the South Carolina State Ports Authority and the Georgia Ports Authority, depends on the return of demand sufficient to justify the required finding.
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