Much work to do on Sea Pines dredging plan

info@islandpacket.comDecember 11, 2012 

The questions and points raised about the proposed Sea Pines dredging project by state and federal regulatory agencies and environmental groups are not surprising.

Many of the issues have been part of the debate about how best to proceed on dredging Sea Pines marinas and waterways since at least 2000. They should be addressed in full.

They include:

  • The accuracy of models used to predict what will happen if 300,000 cubic yards of silt, clay and other sediments are pumped into Calibogue Sound over six months. A call for independent review of the modeling should be heeded. If these assumptions are wrong, we could be headed for trouble.

  • Dated information about the site to be used for dumping. New and more complete surveys should be done.

  • Adequate monitoring and a detailed plan to stop or revise operations should problems arise.

  • Claims that hydraulic dredging with inshore dumping is the only "feasible" and "practicable" alternative. The state Department of Natural Resources says other alternatives should be considered, including spreading out the project over two or three years; using a combination of hydraulic and mechanical dredging methods; using multiple disposal sites; and reducing the volume of sediment to be dredged.

  • The area that would be affected by the dumping could be as much as 398 acres, not the 56 acres asserted in the permit request.

  • DNR maintains that the association also hasn't fully taken into account the "substantial cost of monitoring that should be required as a permit condition for such a large, precedent-setting project."

    The agencies are right to question inshore dumping as the only viable option for the dredging association. They maintain that the permit requirements set after the many problems with the association's 2003 dredging project could be dealt with, including using barges with tighter seals or barges that don't dump from the bottom to transport the dredge spoil and thickening agents and de-watering techniques to avoid leaks and spills.

    DNR also suggests using a clamshell dredge to remove material from Harbour Town and dumping it at an approved offshore site.

    That suggestion should not be overlooked. For many years, Harbour Town was mechanically dredged with little incident. Given the primacy many people put on getting Harbour Town dredged, this should be seriously considered. It could put dredging Harbour Town on a faster track.

    The groups also raise questions about the efficacy of dredging so much and so far up Baynard Cove and Braddock Cove creeks. The S.C. Environmental Law Project points out that more than 2,500 feet of Baynard Cove Creek would be dredged to a depth of 5 feet below the mean low water mark for the benefit of five to seven docks.

    That gets to the question of whether these several dredging projects should be linked under one permit.

    The South Island Dredging Association has a lot more work to do, and those worried about the Harbour Town Yacht Basin should look for a separate, more quickly achieved solution.

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