News | November 16, 2021

SELC saves South Carolina wetlands and helps create a better development

SELC brokered an agreement with a South Carolina developer to save 50 acres of wetlands slated for destruction to make way for a housing development in Charleston.

The agreement with the developers of the 3,000-acre Long Savannah site in West Ashley also will restore some natural water flow on the property to lessen flooding in the nearby Church Creek area, along with funding a $250,000 trust to help with further flooding fixes.

Preserving our natural resources is a key component to making Charleston resilient in the face of climate change.

Senior Attorney Catherine Wannamaker

The Long Savannah development was of particular concern to SELC and the Charleston Waterkeeper because of ongoing flooding in the Church Creek basin, an area that lost nearly a quarter of its wetlands to development from 1996 to 2010. According to Purdue University, an acre of wetlands can store 330,000 gallons of water. When wetlands are filled for development, floodwater has fewer places to go.

SELC and the Charleston Waterkeeper worked for three years on this project, and in the fall reached a settlement with the developer.

The Long Savannah development is one of several in the Lowcountry where wetlands are slated for filling at a time when the Charleston area is experiencing a record number of flooding days because of sea level rise and the loss of the area’s natural flood defenses. Saving wetlands wherever possible is a critical step in helping Charleston adapt to a changing – and wetter – climate, said Catherine Wannamaker, a senior attorney.

“We are happy the developer was willing to work with us to protect a substantial number of wetlands and to put in place other changes that will go a long way to addressing flooding in the area,” Wannamaker said. “Preserving our natural resources is a key component to making Charleston resilient in the face of climate change.”