The South Island Dredging Association finally has what it wants: permits to remove sediment from the Harbour Town Yacht Basin and nearby waterways.
Now the public must get what it wants: no damage to the pristine waters of Calibogue Sound.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers signed off on the permit last week, and state permits were in hand two months earlier.
Barring a legal challenge, the association of private boat-slip owners and some Sea Pines residents can begin work in November.
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The dredging association is being given every benefit of the doubt by state and federal environmental regulators. This is the first private dredging project in South Carolina to be given a permit that allows open-water dumping. The plan is to pipe about 300,000 cubic yards of sediment to a 100-acre site at the mouth of Calibogue Sound -- about 4,600 feet from Hilton Head Island and close by a site where the Town of Hilton Head Island has dredged sand to nourish its beaches.
The Corps of Engineers believes that Calibogue Sound's strong currents and the type of sediment to be pumped enable this project to be an exception to its preference for offshore dumping.
The association is seeking a contractor, and we hope it can at least get the Harbour Town Yacht Basin dredged during the first window of opportunity, which runs from November to April 1, 2014. State permits are good for five years and the federal permit for 10 years.
We take the permitting agencies at their word that the work will be carefully monitored, and halted if the sediment builds up on the floor of the sound rather than dissipating as projected. When the dredging association last tried to get this job done, both the work and the government oversight failed and the project was halted.
It is good that the dredging association has gotten to this point on its own, without town money or management. Town involvement is not appropriate or needed, though the suggestion remains a topic of conversation at town hall. We hope that the owners of these private assets do the job well this time, setting a precedent that can be repeated in the future.