HUGER, SC - When the Charleston Harbor deepens from 45 to 52 feet, a few thousand acres along the Cooper River will be preserved and protected.
"It proves that economic growth and conservation of our natural resources go hand-in-hand," says Elizabeth Hagood, the executive director of the Lowcountry Open Land Trust.
"It's a game changer to have a harbor that can handle these ships without delay...it's vital that we were able to forge a collaboration with the conservation interests in this region and state," explains the President and CEO of the SC Ports Authority, Jim Newsome.
The Ports Authority is contributing several million dollars to the conservation efforts. The LOLT and Coastal Conservation League will work together to reduce the impact of the massive underwater construction project on the environment.
"The port has committed $5 million to a conservation fund that will be administered by the land trust to be invested in the conservation of this corridor in over the coming years," says Hagood.
"The health of the harbor and the Cooper River, the levels of dissolved oxygen, the diversity of aquatic life that exist today make it possible and acceptable to perform this deepening without undo harm to the ecosystem," says Dana Beach, executive director of the Coastal Conservation League.
Governor Nikki Haley says the partnership is innovative. She believes if South Carolina can balance economic interests with environmental awareness, the state will attract more businesses and jobs.
"They didn't say yes to their special interests. They said yes to South Carolina. That's the win here today because when you see all of this, the companies that we get to South Carolina don't just come for profits, they come for this."
The Ports Authority's Joint Bond Review Committee of is expected to give final approval of the agreement in January.