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The Beaufort County environmental watchdog organization, Friends of the River, is not slowing down for the holidays. Their job as “watchdog” over the many rivers and estuaries to our south is a 24/7/365 commitment.

The organization is proposing to submit a dock ordinance to state and local officials next month that would apply to rivers classified as “Outstanding Resource Waters.” This classification is given by the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) to waters with “exceptional recreational or ecological importance or of unusual value.”

In Beaufort County there are four rivers classified as Outstanding Resource Waters: the May, Okatie, Colleton and New rivers. The proposed ordinance would limit the number of community docks at new developments, would require all new developments on the rivers to go through an environmental impact study (EIS), and would require any maintenance on current developments and docks to be subject to public review.

This move by the Friends of the River comes after DHEC approved the Pinckney Point development (which consists of 3 community docks, 30 boat lifts and a boat ramp) without hearing any of the 20 appeals made by the public.

DHEC did however scale the proposed development down a bit; the Pinckney development had originally proposed 76 homes and 70 boat lifts. DHEC found that this development would have significant impact on the quality of the waterways and thus found it to violate the Clean Water Act.

Friends of the River are demanding that DHEC do more to protect the health of our Lowcountry waterways.

Although we agree that a community presence on the water is essential to assuring that our waterways are protected, such a high concentration of activity can adversely affect the health of the entire ecological system. In this instance, the proposed development is located at the headwaters of the Okatie and Colleton rivers and thus would influence the health of both rivers in their entirety.