SOUTHPORT, NC (WWAY) -- It looks like the ship may have sailed for the proposed international port in Southport. Today the North Carolina Ports Authority announced the project has been put on hold indefinitely. For many folks who live in Brunswick County, this is very welcome news.
At least half a dozen towns in Brunswick County passed formal resolutions against the proposed international terminal in Southport concerned that the heavy industry would be bad for tourism. This year, the state General Assembly decided not to fund a study on the port. Then earlier this month US Rep. Mike McIntyre (D, 7th District) announced his opposition to port plan. In the end, it was hard to find anyone who supported the port, other than longshoremen and the ports authority itself.
"The environmental concerns were too great," state Rep. Frank Iler (R, Brunswick County) said. "The business model was blown out of proportion, and for the 150 jobs or whatever it might be, I don't think it would be economically or environmentally sound to do."
When news about the port first broke back in 2006 it was touted as one of the greatest things that would ever happen to southeastern North Carolina by creating tens of thousands of jobs. After some initial giddiness, people started analyzing the numbers and realized that seemed like an awful lot of hype.
"The numbers were bogus," said Susan Toth, a member of the group NoPort Southport, which started a grassroots campaign against the port plan in 2008. "The old saying if it sounds too good to be true it generally is I think that applies here."
In a time of tight budgets, the estimated $2-3 billion it would cost to build the port didn't help either, but the Ports Authority still has $30 million tied up in the land it bought for the port, and NoPort Southport opponents say they'll still have to keep a close eye on things.
"Our focus now is changing to suggestions," NoPort Southport's Harry Burrell said. "What can we do with that 600 acres to create jobs, be environmentally sound, and really add to this region and not detract from it?"
No one from the Ports Authority was available for an interview today. In a prepared statement, the authority said that access to a deepwater port is important to keeping North Carolina globally competitive. The Ports Authority says it will continue to examine its options beyond the international port.