Good news for Okatie, but caution for rezoning

info@islandpacket.comApril 16, 2013 

With the news that Beaufort County Council voted to buy and permanently preserve the 229 acres of Pinckney Point, the hundreds of citizens who actively opposed development plans for this property on the Okatie and Colleton rivers over the last about seven years should be gratified for their effort, and it should be seen as another significant achievement for our highly successful Rural and Critical Lands Program.

Although the Okatie is classified by the state as "Outstanding Resource Waters," since the mid-1990s, much of it has been closed to shellfish harvesting due to coliform bacteria contamination.

The county has been pursuing a concerted effort to once again allow shellfish harvesting in its waters. This is a two-pronged effort: A targeted program to preserve undeveloped lands in the river's watershed in order to prevent further degradation of the river; and planning a number of projects to retrofit existing drainage systems that discharge into the river for the purpose of restoring water quality.

Through land purchases and conservation easements, with the Pinckney Point acquisition, we have now preserved about 800 acres along the Okatie, limiting further impervious development in the watershed.

With preservation activities and the restoration projects, we can hope to return the Okatie to "clean" conditions.

This also highlights the important of County Council's decision on the rezoning request for the nearby 143-acre Pepper Hall property, also on the banks of the Okatie River.

Reed Armstrong

Coastal Conservation League

Beaufort

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