Berkeley Charleston Tradeport
The Berkeley Charleston Tradeport is a proposed industrial warehouse complex off Jedburg Road in the New Hope community. The proposed facility includes ten massive warehouses that would total 4.9 million square feet of buildings in addition to extensive paved roads and parking areas. It would require nearly 13 acres of wetland fill. Two of the buildings are currently under construction, but those are the only buildings for which the developers have the required permits. To build the other eight buildings, the developers have requested permission from the Army Corps of Engineers and SCDHEC to fill nearly thirteen acres of wetlands in Wassamassaw Swamp.
In partnership with the South Carolina Environmental Law Project (SCELP), we submitted a letter of opposition in July 2020 detailing the extensive negative impacts this project would have on the environment as well as the New Hope community.
As designed, the Berkeley Charleston Tradeport will take a major toll on the quality of life for New Hope residents. The project will immensely increase the amount of truck traffic on Jedburg Road, causing more congestion and public safety concerns. The industrial complex will completely encircle the longstanding residences along New Hope Drive, substantially increasing light pollution with perpetual lighting, noise pollution with round-the-clock industrial operations, and—perhaps most importantly—air pollution with hundreds of semitruck trips in and out of the site every day. Additionally, the project will surround the historic New Hope United Methodist Church founded in 1852, before the Civil War. The church cemetery contains historic gravesites dating to the 1880’s, and the church grounds are home to a community center and ballfield. In many ways, New Hope United Methodist Church is the heart of New Hope, which has been a quiet, rural community for decades. Surrounding it with an industrial complex of this scale threatens to severely diminish the community’s character and culture.
Wetlands provide many important services to the environment and the public. They act as natural water purifiers, prevent excessive erosion and sedimentation, and store water during storms, effectively reducing flood damage and lessening the risk of flash floods caused by major storms. This is extremely important as the South Carolina coast continues to experience frequent costly weather events such as, most recently, Hurricane Isaias, which caused $5 billion worth of damage in the United States, the Caribbean and Canada.
Wetlands also provide habitat for many species of plants and animals. This includes various threatened and endangered species. About one-third of all such species in the United States rely on wetlands for their survival. However, other animals such as deer, sunfish, and migratory birds like mallards and wood ducks rely on wetlands for survival. Just because a specific wetland is not home to an endangered species does not mean it is not vital to the overall health and productivity of our environment.
As proposed, the Berkeley Charleston Tradeport would destroy nearly thirteen acres of valuable wetlands in Wassamassaw Swamp, eradicating wildlife habitat and compromising the area’s capacity to withstand major storm events.
Impacts Across the Watershed
While the direct destruction of wetlands in itself is certainly concerning, the full impact of the Berkeley Charleston Tradeport as designed will actually be much greater. The project will affect the entire watershed of Miller Dam Branch and could even cause issues with flooding and sedimentation downstream along the Ashley River. We recently commissioned an analysis by Robinson Design Engineers, an award-winning team of hydrologists and engineers. Their study found that the hard surfaces of the buildings and parking lots would increase annual runoff volume by 60%. That’s the equivalent of 235 additional Olympic size swimming pools running into Wassamassaw Swamp and downstream to the Ashley River every year. Further urbanization in the watershed, which includes new housing developments along Jedburg Road and an extension of the Nexton development along Sheep Island Road will also contribute further to this increased runoff. Robinson Design Engineers’ analysis also revealed that developers plan to install a culvert within a FEMA floodway, which requires special regulatory review and permitting. It is clear that the developers of this site have not considered the full impacts this project would have on the environment or the community.
The Fight Ahead
This project has the potential to set a disastrous precedent for freshwater wetland impacts, stormwater management, and community encroachment in Berkeley County and across our region. State Representative Sylleste Davis requested that SCDHEC host a public meeting for citizens to express their concerns to the department, and the agency agreed to do so. However, on February 8, 2021, they issued a decision to approve the request without ever having hosted a public meeting. This is unacceptable. Citizens deserve to have a say over what happens to their community. Along with our partners at SCELP, we plan to request a final review by the SCDHEC Board since the office failed to host the public meeting they mentioned. We will need your support along the way! Prepare to use your voice to make sure our valuable wetlands aren’t needlessly destroyed, and our historic communities don’t have to pay the price for industrial development.