Task of restoring Bluffton's May River falls to Jones

tbarton@beaufortgazette.comJuly 22, 2013 

Kim Jones has an important task ahead of her -- protecting the May River -- but her predecessor left her with potent tools for that duty, Bluffton town officials say.

Jones was promoted July 16 to director of the town's Stormwater Management Division. She has worked for Bluffton since 2007, most recently as the Water Quality Program manager.

She replaces Ron Bullman, who took a private sector position in Charleston.

Bullman's tenure began with the creation of the division in 2010. He was instrumental in developing the nearly 100-page plan aimed at making the river's headwaters safe for shellfish harvesting.

"While we have accomplished a lot and still have a lot to accomplish with the May River Watershed Action Plan, Kim has expertise on both sides of the environmental equation as a biologist and as the manager of Bluffton's Water Quality Program," Bullman said in a news release.

An attempt Monday to reach him was unsuccessful. His last day with the town was Friday.

Jones has been the vice president of the Coastal Discovery Museum, leading its sea turtle protection efforts, and has been the science and education director for Palmetto Bluff Conservancy.

She received her bachelor's degree in biology from Gannon University in Erie, Pa., and earned a master's degree in biology and ecology from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

"She has the knowledge, the experience, education and professionalism, and her appointment gives the stormwater division the continuity needed to carry the program forward," town manager Anthony Barrett wrote in an email.

SUCCESSES AND CHALLENGES

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control reopened a half-mile section of the river in September that had been closed to shellfishing since 2009.

That same month, Palmetto Bluff developer Crescent Resources agreed to build fewer homes and improve water management near the May River. The developer donated six acres for a stormwater retention pond that the town recently excavated using its own money and a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The pond will handle stormwater from 300 acres and is expected to reduce the amount of harmful bacteria reaching the river by 80 percent, according to town officials.

Next on town's docket is a project to re-use stormwater runoff from the Rose Dhu Creek sub-basin for irrigation, reducing the volume of pollutants entering the May River. The work is expected to cost about $500,000, and the EPA recently awarded the town $290,000 in grants to help pay for it. The rest will come from the town's capital improvement program, Jones said.

Mayor Lisa Sulka and Town Council members Michael Raymond and Karen Lavery say Bullman will be missed, but the town's efforts will progress under Jones. Funding its multimillion dollar May River plan, on the other hand, will continue to pose a daunting challenge, they said.

Jones, who has been busy the past year spreading the message of the river's importance in local schools and civic groups, is optimistic.

"I am excited to not only continue our current progress to restore the May, but to also draw more attention and partners to the table to assist us in our great efforts," Jones wrote in an email.

Follow reporter Tom Barton on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom.

Related content:

Neighbors for Clean Water

State reopens section of May River to shellfishing: Sept. 16, 2013

Palmetto Bluff developer shifts home-building plans to protect May River: Sept. 21, 2013

Bluffton adopts May River action plan: Nov. 9, 2011

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