During this day and time, we know better than to fill and build in wetlands, particularly in a floodplain. These activities have led to repeated flooding of people's homes, especially in the notoriously waterlogged Church Creek basin in Charleston's West Ashley.
And yet, on May 21, 2020, right on the heels of horrific flooding events in Charleston County caused by Tropical Storm Bertha, DHEC staff issued 401 Water Quality and Coastal Zone Consistency Certifications for the 3,172.6-acre Long Savannah project—one of the largest proposed developments in Charleston's history—and one that stands to threaten the health and livability of the West Ashley community as it would allow the permanent destruction of more than 200 acres of wetlands.
On July 30, 2020, after the DHEC Board declined to review its staff's certifications, we filed a Request for a Contested Case Hearing with the South Carolina Administrative Law Court, asking the court to reverse the certifications. We took this action on behalf of the Sierra Club and South Carolina Wildlife Federation.
There are a number of critical flaws with the proposed development:
• DHEC’s decision allows filling 137 acres and excavating 72 acres of wetlands adjacent to Church and Rantowles Creeks. Wetlands provide numerous benefits for people and wildlife, including protecting and improving water quality, providing wildlife habitat and storing floodwaters. This type of “fill and build” activity is exactly what has led to repeated flooding in adjacent neighborhoods.
• Although the proposed construction will be conducted over a 30-year period, DHEC’s authorizations fail to account for how climate change impacts will effect the site over that period. For example, impacts from more intense and more frequent storm events must be considered to avoid placing more residents in harm’s way.
• Further, DHEC failed to consider how this project impacts the economic stability of West Ashley. Under their own guidelines, the agency must evaluate the extent to which a project is in the national interest and that includes consideration of the maintenance or improvement of the economic stability of the surrounding coastal community. The developers’ originally proposed average home price of $338,834 far exceeds the national, state and county definitions of affordable housing. In fact, it would be more expensive than 73 percent of the other homes in West Ashley.
We are asking the Administrative Law Court to reverse the certifications issued by DHEC.