Nearly 1,000 acres of environmentally and historically significant properties in the Cooper River watershed are being permanently protected, under a $1-million land preservation program by the South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA). The effort is part of the SCPA’s $12-million environmental and community mitigation package related to the new container terminal under construction at the former Navy Base in North Charleston.
“As the port grows and thrives, it is vital that we continue to be a productive component of the local community,” said Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the SCPA. “That is accomplished both through the jobs and opportunities afforded to our neighbors through the maritime community, and also through efforts like this that enhance the Charleston region overall.”
In all, three properties totaling more than 967 acres are being preserved through the SCPA plan. Protection of the largest tract, the 824-acre Buck Hall Plantation property, was finalized last week.
Buck Hall is located on the west branch of the Cooper River adjacent to Mepkin Abbey. The property includes 375 acres of wetlands that will be preserved, free of further development, in perpetuity.
Additional properties now under conservation easements through the SCPA funds include 22 acres at the St. James Chapel of Ease in Goose Creek and 122 acres at Brickyard Plantation, which is located on the east branch of the Cooper River at the upper stream of Quimby Creek.
The SCPA partnered with the Lord Berkeley Conservation Trust to identify and acquire the properties. The property owners each have signed agreements with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, placing their properties under conservation easements.
Additional components in the SCPA’s $12-million mitigation plan included a $1 million contribution to protect the 126-acre Morris Island site as a public space for future generations, a five-year collaboration with EcoHealth Alliance on aerial surveys of right whale migrations and a $1-million partnership with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources SCORE (South Carolina Oyster Restoration and Enhancement) program to restore approximately five miles of oyster reefs in the area. Elsewhere in the harbor, the SCPA will be recreating a 22-acre tract of tidal marsh on the southern end of Drum Island.
In addition to the traditional environmental mitigation activities, the SCPA, in coordination with the City of North Charleston and neighborhoods surrounding the new terminal, is funding $4 million toward education and job training programs, an affordable housing trust and other community initiatives.
The new terminal at the former Navy Base is currently the only permitted, new container terminal under construction on the U.S. East and Gulf coasts. The facility, at build out, will boost the Port of Charleston’s container capacity by 50 percent.