A local effort to foster environmental protection and economic revitalization in distressed neighborhoods has earned a national Environmental Justice Achievement Award through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The EPA presented the award today at North Charleston City Hall to the Lowcountry Alliance for Model Communities (LAMC), which includes seven North Charleston neighborhoods, the South Carolina State Ports Authority (SCSPA) and the Mitigation Agreement Commission, the board overseeing a $4-million Community Mitigation Plan funded by the SCSPA.
The 2009 Environmental Justice Achievement Award recognizes successful multi-stakeholder partnerships that address environmental justice issues or employ the goals of environmental justice to positively impact their community.
Presenting the award were the EPA’s Region IV Acting Deputy Regional Director Beverly Banister and Associate Director for Environmental Justice Kent Benjamin, who also recognized 13 local organizations partnering in the group from state and local government, non-profits and higher education. Only four other Environmental Justice Achievement Awards were presented nationally.
“This is a tremendous example of the positive changes that partnerships can effect in communities across South Carolina,” said Nancy Whittle, environmental quality control community liaison with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). “Collaborative problem-solving is a powerful approach.”
LAMC and its partners have worked on various issues impacting the health and economic well-being of their communities. One such project was the Community Mitigation Plan developed through the collaborative partnership of LAMC, the SCSPA and the City of North Charleston during the environmental permitting for a new container terminal at the former Navy Base. The mitigation plan includes funding for local scholarship programs, affordable housing, environmental monitoring, healthcare and wellness initiatives and other programs.
“LAMC was formed to create a unified voice for improving our neighborhoods,” said Rahim Karreim, acting president of LAMC. “We will continue to work on a number of important issues confronting our community. Through the mitigation funding, we are striving to improve the quality of life in our communities while productively addressing the economic and environmental issues we face.”
Over the past three years, LAMC and the Mitigation Agreement Commission have initiated several efforts, including a long-range Revitalization Plan for the LAMC communities, air monitoring discussions with DHEC and a public design charette for the Stromboli Road corridor with Clemson University Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture. Improvements to Stromboli Road are part of the planned Port Access Road that will connect the new port terminal at the former Navy Base to Interstate-26.
Also during the program, SCSPA Board Secretary John F. Hassell III presented a $300,000 check to North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey. This represents the SCSPA’s third installment of the $4-million Community Mitigation Plan, bringing the total to $1,350,000 so far.
“This community has worked productively and collaboratively to advance their neighborhoods and certainly deserves this award,” said Hassell. “Working together, we are maximizing the community benefits of port expansion and minimizing the undesirable impacts.”
The community mitigation is part of a larger $12-million mitigation program to offset direct and indirect impacts of the SCSPA’s new, 280-acre container terminal under construction at the former Navy Base.
ABOUT THE SOUTH CAROLINA STATE PORTS AUTHORITY
The South Carolina State Ports Authority, established by the state’s General Assembly in 1942, owns and operates public seaport facilities in Charleston and Georgetown, handling international commerce valued at more than $62 billion annually while receiving no direct taxpayer subsidy. An economic development engine for the state, port operations facilitate 260,800 jobs across South Carolina and nearly $45 billion in economic activity each year. For more information, visit scspa.com.