Yearly Archives: 2015

Diane Gould has volunteered with Charleston Waterkeeper for many years, we are very excited to finally feature her in a Saloon Session! Diane is a biologist by training, but she’s also a life-long learner with an insatiable hunger for knowledge. Her most recent volunteer effort was compilation of research for the Fact Sheets featured on Our Watershed page. We were so excited about her research that we created the weekly #WaterWednesday series earlier this year to highlight all of her hard work. We hope you enjoy getting to know another one of our outstanding volunteers and supporters!


-Tell us briefly about your background.

I was born in a coastal town in Massachusetts called Winthrop, where I spent many happy days as a child playing in the waves despite the bone-chilling cold water! Roaming the beaches and finding skate egg cases and jelly fish led to a life-long fascination with the marine environment. Love of the ocean led me to study ecology at Cornell University and ultimately to get a Ph.D. in marine environmental science from U. Mass./Boston. My career path led me to the US EPA-funded National Estuary Program where I worked as Executive Director of the Massachusetts Bays Program for 6 years and as Regional Coordinator of the Casco Bay (Maine) Estuary Partnership for 13 years. These programs are federal/state/citizen partnerships that work on solutions for pollution problems.

In 2012, I retired from US EPA and moved here with my husband to Charleston. My son Andrew is a local architect here who designed a lovely home for us, next door to his home and my two grandchildren. We are walking distance from the Ashley River and a short drive from Folly Beach and Sullivan’s Island with their miles of sandy beach! A wonderful surprise was the playful dolphins visible near the shore and right at Aquarium Wharf downtown!

-Why did you choose to volunteer with Charleston Waterkeeper?

One of the citizen organizations I worked with in Maine was Friends of Casco Bay, part of the national Waterkeeper Alliance. Friends of Casco Bay played a key role in efforts to address pollution issues in the Bay through their extensive water quality monitoring program. In 2006 I was greatly honored to receive their Friend of Casco Bay award, largely for my efforts to educate the public about pollutants, especially toxic chemicals in the Bay. When he heard my retirement plans, Joe Payne, the Baykeeper for Casco Bay, urged me to meet with Cyrus Buffum at Charleston Waterkeeper. I hoped that my experience would be helpful to Cyrus and his staff.

-Why is clean water important to you?

Estuaries are key to the health of our water resources. When I arrived here in Charleston I wanted very much to learn what important issues impact the health of the Ashley Cooper watershed and Charleston Harbor. Pulling together material for the Watershed section of the website was a wonderful opportunity for me to learn about the history of Charleston’s water resources, the plants and animals, the value of the resources, the monitoring that has been done, and the pollution threats we are facing.


-You have quite the background – tell us more about your experience in environmental work.

My field research in college looked at the growth rate and contribution to the food chain of single celled algae called diatoms on a tidal mudflat. Diatoms can “swim” through the mud to reach the sunlight when the mud is exposed at low tide and hide back in the sediment when the water flows back in. These fascinating organisms have been an obsession of mine since childhood when I spotted them gliding along under my toy microscope in drops of brackish water from the tidal ditch behind my house.

My work with the National Estuary Program included writing State of the Bay reports and other material summarizing science for the lay public, helping to write and implement an environmental plan for the Presumpscot River, and working to define and implement needed research programs including eelgrass monitoring, toxics in birds and sediments, and impacts of red tides on shellfish.

-We are encouraged by your passion for knowledge – what’s your favorite subject to study nowadays and why?

Since retiring, I’ve been taking advantage of the wonderful opportunities for senior citizens to study at the College of Charleston. So far, I’ve taken courses in art history, architecture and philosophy. The art history came in very handy last fall when I spent a month living a block from the Louvre in Paris!

-Anything else you’d like to share?

Its been a real pleasure working with the dedicated staff of Charleston Waterkeeper! You are doing a great job!

Gadsden Creek is one of the Charleston peninsula’s last remaining tidal creek systems. Throughout history the creek and its marsh covered much of the Westside between Spring Street to the South, the Citadel campus to the North, and President Street to the East. During the 1950s and 60s Gadsden Creek’s marsh was transformed into a landfill and eventually the creek was channelized into an L shape. Brittlebank Park (1975) and Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park (1997) are built on portions of the old landfill.

Despite all this Gadsden Creek is still a functioning tidal system. The tide ebbs and flows to the Ashley River through a culvert under Lockwood Blvd. Marsh periwinkles and mud minnows abound. Snowy Egrets and Blue Herons frequent Gadsden Creek and its marsh to feed on small fish and crabs.

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 9.28.38 AM

The life of the Gadsden Creek system is at a crossroads. The Horizon Project Foundation recently applied for a DHEC Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management “critical area permit” to bury Gadsden Creek in a pipe and fill its marsh. We can do better. Brownfield restoration work in other communities shows urban streams near landfills can be restored and become assets to their communities.

We have a choice: bury the creek and its marsh forever or restore it and turn the creek into a community asset like Brittlebank Park and The Joe? The answer is clear.

After six years serving as our Executive Director and Waterkeeper, Founder Cyrus Buffum will be stepping out of his day-to-day role with the organization to serve as a member of our Board of Directors. With this transition, the organization is pleased to announce Andrew Wunderley, Esq. as Charleston’s next Waterkeeper.

Photograph by Christopher Shane

Cyrus aboard Number Two on Linning’s Creek (Photograph by Christopher Shane)

“Together, as we look ahead as an organization, I am encouraged by the strength of our foundation and the clarity of our vision. To all of our supporters, to our team (past and present), and to my friends and family, thank you. It has been one of my life’s greatest honors to serve as Charleston’s Waterkeeper and to help build this organization to what it is today. I am truly humbled, and I am truly grateful. Here’s to the future.” – Cyrus A. Buffum, Founder

In 2008, as a 23-year-old sailing instructor on Charleston Harbor, Cyrus read The Riverkeepers, the story of a group of fishermen who banded together to protect the Hudson River and their fundamental right to fish its waters. Cyrus was immediately inspired to establish a Waterkeeper organization in Charleston and set to work doing so.

Today, Charleston Waterkeeper stands as a fully operational organization with a professional staff, robust programs, and an impassioned constituency of supporters and water users.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., President of Waterkeeper Alliance, offered that, “Building a Waterkeeper organization from scratch requires vision and community support. The existence of Charleston Waterkeeper and the effectiveness of its work is a testament to Cyrus’s dedication and Charleston’s passion for its waterways.”

Walker Brock, Chairman of the Board of Directors, remarked, “We are grateful Cyrus will continue his work with the organization as a member of the Board. His vision for the organization is clear and long term, and we will benefit from his new role. In six years, he has built a strong, impactful nonprofit with very capable, professional staff, strong supporters, and a clear, meaningful mission. We are excited about the future of Charleston Waterkeeper and the perspective and expertise Andrew will bring as our next Waterkeeper.”

With this announcement, Charleston Waterkeeper will be splitting the joint Executive Director – Waterkeeper role into two, full-time positions. With Andrew’s appointment as Waterkeeper, the Board of Directors has established a committee to conduct a formal search for the organization’s next Executive Director. Cyrus will remain in his current role as Director until the organization’s next generation of executive leadership has been identified.

To read the organization’s press release announcing the transition, click here.

To read Cyrus’s letter to supporters, click here.

To read Board Chairman Walker Brock’s letter to supporters, click here.


Senator Sean Bennett and Representatives Chris Murphy and Jenny Horne recently introduced legislation that would remove 90% of Dorchester County from the Coastal Zone. The proposed action would roll back wetland protections from the headwaters of the Ashley River (the Cypress and Wassamassaw Swamps).

Andrew Wunderley, Charleston Waterkeeper, testified at an important South Carolina Senate Environmental Subcommittee hearing on Wednesday. “The proposed legislation would remove long standing coastal zone protections from the Ashley River above Bacons Bridge Road near Summerville” he said, adding “The Ashley River doesn’t begin at Bacons Bridge Road and its protections shouldn’t begin there either.” (red line in map below)

Read the Waterkeeper’s full testimony (including watershed maps) here.

Ashley River S.522

In a procedural move, the Environmental Subcommittee voted to strike and amend the legislation to study what areas should be included in the Coastal Zone statewide. The study will be conducted by DHEC’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management and include a broad group of stakeholders like agency personnel, developers, land owners, scientists, and Charleston Waterkeeper.

“We support the Coastal Zone as currently drawn” Wunderley said after the hearing. “Its boundaries are 40 years old and have served us well.” He added “Any effort to redraw Coastal Zone boundaries should be throughly researched and grounded in watershed and wetland science.”

In the next few weeks, OCRM will report to the Environmental Subcommittee on the feasibility of a Coastal Zone study. The study, if it moves forward, is expected to take about 2 years. Charleston Waterkeeper will monitor this issue for further development. Stay tuned for more details.


The Ashley River Needs Our Help

Proposed bills remove important protections for Ashley headwaters

Last week Senator Sean Bennett and Representatives Chris Murphy and Jenny Horne introduced legislation that would remove 90% of Dorchester County from the Coastal Zone. This would remove important protections from the Cypress and Wassamassaw Swamps — the headwaters of the Ashley River. These areas are critical for maintaining a healthy and vibrant Ashley River.

Please contact your senator and representative today. Ask them to protect the Ashley River by opposing bills S.0522 and H.3797.  

The Ashley River is the Charleston area’s only designated Scenic River. The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources notes the Ashley River is “unparalleled in its unique combination of historical significance and natural resource value.” Removing Coastal Zone protections from its headwaters undermines downstream natural, cultural, and historical resources. Removing 90% of Dorchester County from the Coastal Zone also sets a dangerous precedent for other coastal zone counties. Charleston and Berkeley Counties could follow suit significantly reducing protections for the headwaters of the entire Charleston Harbor estuary.    

You can help protect the Ashley River. Contact your senator and representative today. Ask them oppose bills S.0522 and H.3797.

Thank you for helping to protect our local waterways!