Sea Pines dredging is going well -- so far

We give a thumbs up to the dredging operation of Sea Pines' marinas and waterways. But it's not quite time to pop the cork on the champagne.

About 240,000 cubic yards of sediment, accumulating for the past decade and clogging up waterways, has now been pumped to a 100-acre site at the mouth of the Calibogue Sound. Basins were deepened to about 8.5 feet from 4 feet during an average low tide.

Now, the marinas are accommodating more boats including large ones that previously had to steer clear of the shallow waterways during low tide.

Already, charters are heading out more often, and the Harbour Town Yacht Basin is no longer turning away boats longer than about 60 or 70 feet.

And the work wraps up just in time for the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing that gets underway April 14. Slips are filling up fast, say Sea Pines officials. That includes big yachts, which Heritage organizers hope will make for an impressive background for TV audiences.

By all accounts, contractor Orion Marine Group Inc. has done a commendable job with the project, paid for by a private group of boat-slip owners, Sea Pines residents and the Sea Pines Resort and Gull Point and South Beach marinas.

But the project isn't over yet. It remains to be seen if all of the sediment is swept out to sea as anticipated and that aquatic life and water quality is not negatively affected. Sediment is supposed to move seaward, not accumulate on island beaches or in marshes and creeks or the nearby Cooper and May rivers.

State regulators have promised careful monitoring during and after the project to ensure environmental protection. We applaud and eagerly await the results of the assessments.

Protecting water quality and marine life is as important to our tourism industry as navigable waterways.

And because dredging will need to be repeated in the future, it's important to make sure the work has no unintended consequences.

The project is also setting a statewide precedent. It marks the first private dredging project in the state that was allowed to dump dredge spoil in inshore waters. Results will determine whether similar projects are allowed elsewhere in the future.

There's much at stake with this project. The results, so far, are good. Here's hoping future assessments will deem the work a total success.