Sunday, April 12, 2015 Blog

Protection for Prince George, but not yet for Captain Sams. A new tack for cruise ships, and water policy in a time of drought.

by Andy Hollis

In celebration of the arrival of a glorious spring, The State‘s Sammy Fretwell reports that the University of South Carolina Development (and Conservation!) Foundation has sold the 1,200 acre Prince George tract, just south of Pawley’s Island, to a conservation buyer. The future of this extraordinary property, formerly part of Arcadia Plantation, had been uncertain, with development a troubling possibility. The Conservation League’s Nancy Cave has followed the project for the past three years. Fortunately, the USC Foundation on Friday closed on the sale to a buyer, (whose name we do not yet know), who will place the entire 1,200 acres under a conservation easement.

The Foundation and the new buyer deserve our deepest gratitude for protecting one of the coast’s most beautiful, most strategic and most threatened properties. The Prince George tract is a superb addition to the continuous corridor of protected coastal habitat extending from Pawley’s across Arcadia, Hobcaw Barony, the Yawkey Wildlife Center and the Santee Coastal Reserve, down to the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge and Caper’s Island, ending at the northern tip of Isle of Palms. We indeed live in a charmed landscape.

Speaking of beautiful, threatened properties, the story of Captain Sams Spit has not yet reached so fortunate a conclusion. The South Carolina Senate is debating passage of a much-needed update to the Beachfront Management Act. But the bill has been hijacked by legislators who want to allow the developers of Kiawah to move the building line seaward, to accommodate the construction of a road and fifty houses on this ephemeral dune ridge on the western end of the island. The second and third pieces, editorials from the Post and Courier, (the first of the two by former Post and Courier editor John Burbage), point out the foolishness of allowing construction on an accreting beach when subsequent erosion is inevitable and predictable, and the risks it poses environmentally and fiscally, and to public safety.

If the Senate is still trying to think its way out of a wet paper bag, (so to speak), the Post and Courier reports that the City of Charleston Planning Commission, chaired by Frank McCann, this week took the bold and sensible step of strengthening the city’s tourism committee recommendations by including a provision to evaluate other sites for the cruise ship terminal. Mayor Riley has stated that this provision will not be part of the package the City Council ultimately passes. We will see on May 12, when the City Council votes on the recommendations.

A final note on water… Orangeburg native, former CCL board member and dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environment, Gus Speth, writes in the Post and Courier that South Carolina’s rivers are threatened by a water withdrawal law that is too weak and exempts large agricultural operations from the permitting process. There are bills pending in the Legislature to improve the program, but little progress has been made this session. One need look no further than the headlines about the drought in California, and the newly implemented water rationing program in that state, to understand why South Carolina badly needs a water withdrawal program that covers all major water users.

Onward into spring!

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