Ashley River Protections at Risk

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.


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