WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Planning for a North Carolina cargo terminal able to host a coming generation of super-sized ocean vessels has been delayed in the face of opposition.
The North Carolina State Ports Authority said Wednesday it was putting on hold the proposed $2 billion freight terminal in Southport.
The authority said it will continue to find ways to keep the ports competitive and look for ways to bring money into the state.
The port project has come under scrutiny in recent months from several local governments, including politicians like Congressman Mike McIntyre. He believes the decision to put the project on hold is a positive step forward.
Members of the group No Port Southport agree.
"We've won the battle," said group member Woody Wilson, but he added they haven't won the war.
That's because the 600 acres of land behind the gate where the new port would have been are still owned by the State Ports Authority. Until the Authority knows exactly what it plans to do with that land, the members of No Port Southport aren't resting.
"Right now we have to look at what could possibly happen still," said No Port chairman Susan Toth.
The rest of the region is looking ahead, too. The port would have brought jobs and commerce to the area, including Columbus County. Leaders there were counting on ships from the deep water port to bring business to an international logistics park on the Columbus-Brunswick county line.
Thus, not everyone is celebrating Wednesday's announcement, but many in Brunswick County are doing just that.
"Certainly I think we need to maybe have a little special toddy tonight, and when everybody's back in town then certainly I think that we'll raise a glass, but, again, I don't think our work is over by any stretch of the imagination."
With the Ports Authority keeping "Plan B" vague, it'll take some imagination to picture what the future holds for a site that's reached a dead end...for now.
McIntyre released the following statement:
The decision to place the proposed North Carolina International Terminal on hold by the North Carolina Ports Authority is a positive step forward. The voices of concern have been heard, and now it is time to move forward. I applaud the leadership at the Ports for listening to the communities that will be most affected by this project and deciding to focus on immediate ways we can make the Wilmington Port stronger and create more jobs right now. Working together, we can and will make the Wilmington Port the crown jewel of the East Coast and help the citizens and communities of Southeastern North Carolina.
The NC Ports Authority released the following statement:
The NC State Ports Authority has heard and respects the concerns voiced by local communities and our elected officials and is placing the proposed NC International Terminal (NCIT) project on hold. Together, in concert with residents and elected officials, the NC State Ports Authority will examine how to keep North Carolina's ports competitive and continue its mission to enhance the economy of the entire State.
We believe that access to a deepwater port is important to keeping North Carolina globally competitive. We will examine all options beyond the NCIT.
Copyright 2010 WECT. All rights reserved. AP contributed to this report.
322 Shipyard Boulevard