Activist groups push back on Long Savannah project citing wetland development

Updated: Aug. 2, 2020 at 10:19 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Environmental activist groups say they’re worried about hundreds of acres of wetlands in West Ashley as a long-planned development moves forward.

With potentially thousands of homes, retail and office spaces, the the Bulow County Park/Long Savannah/Village Green project is an untouched 3,172.6-acre site near bees ferry that developers plan to build up over the next three decades.

"This development itself is very significant because of its size and the amount of wetlands is really significant," Amy Armstrong with the South Carolina Environmental Law Project (SCELP) said.

Recently, project developers HPH Properties, L.P., Long Savannah Land Company and Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission received approval from the Department of Health and Environmental Control to excavate and fill in more than 200 acres of natural wetlands.

"We want to judge and the court to reverse the decision to allow this significant amount of wetland impacts," Armstrong said.

The approval is criticized by groups including Charleston Waterkeeper, the Sierra Club, the South Carolina Wildlife Foundation and more who worry the project could exacerbate areas already strained by flooding, like the Church Creek basin.

“So if we want to continue to live in this community to work in this community to play in this community, you’ve got to get serious about protecting wetlands that just like this,” Andrew Wunderley with Charleston Waterkeeper said. “If we continue to fill in them, if we continue to build and then we’re going to flood our way right out of a thriving, vibrant community.”

Taylor Bush, Long Savannah Land Company said that the areas impacting the Church Creek basin are minimal to the rest of the project and they plan to expand conservation efforts.

"The remaining 91% of the project area drains to Rantowles Creek and the Stono River," Bush said in a statement. "The original approved project plan was designed to preserve 1,368 acres of wetlands. By working closely with the City, State and Federal agencies we agreed to modify the original plan in order to increase the wetland preservation area to 1,881 acres and to decrease the development area proportionately."

Bush said the project will actually help flooding in West Ashley as they also plan to add a 17.5 acre detention lake, that's about two and a half times the size of Colonial Lake in downtown Charleston.

However this week, multiple environmental activist groups are taking their concerns to court in an effort to preserve the area.

“This isn’t an anti-development argument, right,” Wunderly said. “This is development in the right areas, wetlands are not appropriate for development, period.”

The Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission has not responded to a request for comment on the project.

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