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CONSERVATION AGREEMENT REACHED OVER CHARLESTON HARBOR PROJECT

In January, the South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA), Lowcountry Open Land Trust (LOLT), Coastal Conservation League (CCL) and the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) announced a milestone agreement for the Post-45 Harbor Deepening Project. It includes a significant port contribution to land conservation along the Cooper River Corridor. The collaboration will ensure timely progress on the harbor deepening and conservation of the Cooper River Corridor.

The federal harbor deepening project was launched in 2011 to expand the Port of Charleston’s ability to handle the post-Panamax vessels. The growth of the population and manufacturing in the Southeast are expected to increase the frequency of post-Panamax vessels on the East Coast. Vessel fleets are also trending to larger, deeper-draft vessels, particularly for containerships, which are constrained by the existing dimensions of the Charleston Harbor.

For more on the initial steps of the Charleston project, see the article in the January/February 2014 issue, page 6.

In October 2014, the Corps of Engineers released the Draft Integrated Feasibility Report and Environmental Impact Statement for the Post-45 Harbor Deepening project. The draft outlines a proposed plan to deepen the major shipping channels within the harbor from 45 to 52 feet. The public commenting period on the draft ran October 10 to November 24, which will be incorporated into the final report. 

The report outlined the project’s significant benefits to the nation, the potential environmental impacts and a description of possible mitigation measures for those impacts. In conservation partnership with LOLT, CCL, and SELC, the SCPA has committed to additional voluntary measures, which protect and enhance natural resources in and around the Cooper, Wando and Ashley rivers.

Construction on the deepening project will begin following the issuance of the Chief’s Report, anticipated in September 2015, and the Preconstruction Engineering and Design Phase.

The Corps said the project is estimated at $509 million, which will be shared between the federal government and the South Carolina State Port Authority at $166 million and $343 million, respectively.

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