Don’t fill Charleston’s last urban tidal creek

Gadsden Creek, the last remaining urban tidal creek in historic Charleston, is threatened by development. 93 concerned citizens congregated at DHEC’s public meeting at 265 Fishburne St on June 17, 2015. It began with a 10 minute defense by a representative of WestEdge (Horizon Project Foundation, Inc.) to fill 354,000 cubic feet of wetlands and engineer a drain for only 75,000 cubic feet which would empty into and further pollute the Ashley River. Wetlands mitigate pollutants and improve water quality. You can view the developer’s plans here which were provided at the meeting.

Their vision destroys a vital ecosystem. Our city’s original peninsular footprint in 1670 went from creek to creek. Landfills are the primary cause of flooding as creeks seek their original path. The developers called Gadsden Creek “a ditch” but you can watch the video of Cyrus Buffum paddling Gadsden Creek and see that it is navigable and beautiful. Nature has reclaimed this wetland even after 30 years of landfilling.

Restoration and incorporation of the creek into the development was suggested by numerous community members. Many do not want the mistakes of the past repeated and spoke out in favor of using wetlands as nature’s defense as against flooding and storm surge. As an important treasure, this precious wild place has great potential for access with walkways to be incorporated into an otherwise thoughtful project.

The city began work on the Crosstown drainage improvements on Monday, June 8. This will help prevent repeated flooding along the Hagood Street area. Filling Gadsden Creek is antiquated engineering. The utter disregard for the enlightened approaches of the 21st century requires going back to the drawing board. We hope the developers will have the vision and courage to save a natural, cultural and historic site.

It is illegal to fill Gadsden Creek under the Coastal Zone Management Act. In DHEC’s handout, the Specific Project Standards for Tidelands and Coastal Waters state that “private gain is not a legitimate justification for the filling of wetlands.” There are clearly “feasible alternatives” which do not contribute to “water quality degradation.” Filling in Gadsden Creek would result in “the irreversible loss of productive tidelands” and the obstruction of “the natural flow of navigable water” which would “affect the production…of marine life or wildlife.” Public access to the submerged lands is a good alternative to this adverse environmental impact that can be avoided.

My boss, Orrin Pilkey, Professor of Earth Sciences at Duke University, says “Nature will have her way.”

You can take action to oppose the filling of Gadsden Creek by writing to DHEC. Public comments will be excepted until July 2nd, 2015. Please contact:
Matt Slagel
Wetland Section Project Manager
SC DHEC – Ocean and Coastal Resource Management
1362 McMillan Ave., Suite 400
Charleston, SC 29405
P: (843) 953-0250 / F: (843) 953-0201

Andrew Wunderley of Charleston Waterkeeper, Katie Zimmerman of the Coastal Conservation League, and Gadsden Creek community group can keep you abreast of the situation.

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One Comment

  1. Jessica Johnston
    Posted June 24, 2015 at 5:33 am | Permalink

    Don’t fill Gadsden Creek in Charleston. Preserve it for future generations. Protect our natural environments, for they are a thing of beauty, and a habitat to many species. This is one feature of Charleston that makes it special. It is a matter of social justice.

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