If the town of Bluffton has its way, a new recreational dock will be floating in the May River by next year.
The town plans to construct a 150-by-8-foot floating dock with a kayak and canoe launch. A new 42-foot-long ramp would connect the dock to the shore.
The floating pier would parallel the existing boat ramp on the river's bank in Oyster Factory Park.
Town officials say the new dock would allow boaters to tie to the dock while retrieving their vehicle or returning it to the parking area. Most boaters now have to beach their vessel or leave someone inside to tend it after launching or before trailering it.
"Accessibility to Bluffton's May River has been a (recurring) issue for Town Council," town manager Anthony Barrett said in an email. "This project is another way the town can make the May River more user-friendly to more people."
The project would cost an estimated $375,000 and require excavation of a 1,170-square-foot underwater area to lay bedding stone for the dock, according to state Department of Health and Environmental Control documents.
But before construction, the town must prove compliant with several DHEC and Army Corps of Engineers' requirements, including the federal Clean Water Act and S.C. Coastal Zone Management Act.
The town has filed for a permit to ensure "the proposed activity does not cause or contribute to violation of state water-quality standards," said Lindsey Evans, a DHEC spokeswoman.
She said she did not expect the May River's status as a threatened watershed to impede the process.
"Given the nature of this project, we don't anticipate any adverse water quality impacts," she said.
The May River has been the focus of environmental restoration and protection efforts in recent years.
In 2007, state officials said fecal coliform levels in the headwaters were increasing. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency then designated the river a threatened watershed.
In 2009, contamination led to a downgrade in the river's shellfish harvesting status.
In 2011, town officials announced the May River Watershed Action Plan to clean up pollution and address the increased fecal coliform levels that closed shellfishing in the headwaters.
DHEC is accepting public comment on the proposed dock through Jan. 4. To weigh in, contact Paul Wojoski at 843-846-9400 or via email at email@example.com.
Follow reporter Dan Burley at twitter.com/IPBG_Dan.