Dirt has been moving on Daniel Island for centuries. That’s certainly nothing new.
First it was for the settlement of the island’s earliest families and the growing of crops. More recently, over the past 25 years or so, it’s been for the construction of new homes for the present day community.
The landscape on the island’s southern tip, below residential development, has continued to evolve since the Army Corps of Engineers began utilizing the property in the 1950s as a dredge spoil area under a lease from former owner Harry Frank Guggenheim, according to the book “Daniel Island” by Michael K. Dahlman and Michael K. Dahlman Jr. The South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) ended up purchasing over 1,300 acres several decades later and retains ownership of the property today.
As work on new communities on the island pushed to the development’s southern borders over the last couple of years, the SCPA’s activities have become more visible to residents. Machines are on the move on the property, clearing land and shifting dirt, prompting some nearby residents to ask questions about what’s planned for the area.
The Daniel Island News reached out to port officials to learn more. According to Liz Crumley, manager of corporate communications for the SCPA, the work is part of ongoing dredging activities needed for port operations. Crumley provided a map detailing the main areas under port ownership on Daniel Island (see graphic on page 8), including a 1,000-acre parcel that covers the lower third of the island. Within that space are four separate disposal areas. Two of those “cells” are used by the Army Corps of Engineers through a long-term lease as part of the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project, and the other two are used by the SCPA for maintenance dredging.
“All four areas are constantly in a state of being used for disposal, or maintained for future dike raisings,” she stated. “Area residents may see ongoing work from time to time, including clearing and grubbing of trees and other invasive vegetation, dikes being raised along the perimeter, and other earth work.”
Much of the current activity is directly related to the harbor deepening project, a massive undertaking that involves deepening the entrance channel to the harbor to 54 feet and the inner harbor to 52 feet.
A third contract for the overall project, which is expected to be completed in 2021, was awarded by the corps to Norfolk Dredging Co. last August. It covers the Lower Harbor to Wando Welch Terminal (located on the Mount Pleasant side of the Wando River) and involves the removal of more than 11 million cubic yards of material.
Other port navigation improvements slated for the waters off the Daniel Island coastline include widening the turning basin of the Wando River from 1,400 feet to 1,650 feet, allowing two 14,000-TEU-and-above container ships to easily pass one another and turn around near the Wando Welch Terminal without restrictions.
“Dredging and disposal of dredged material is vital to ensuring container ships can safely access our terminals,” noted Crumley. “This land at the southern end of Daniel Island has been used for decades to keep our harbor safe for navigation…Work will always occur there, periodically and as needed.”
Aside from the dredge disposal sites, the SCPA also owns several other parcels on Daniel Island. A 135-acre tract of port land on the Cooper River side is under investigation to be used as a Saltwater Mitigation Bank, added Crumley. Another 50 acres is under a long-term lease with the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism. And there is a 106-acre site currently up for sale on the island’s western side known as The North Island Tract, which includes 37 acres of highland.
“We can’t share any details until the sale is final,” said Crumley, when asked if the port has received any offers yet on the property.
WANT TO KNOW MORE?
For additional information on the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project and dredge disposal, please check the following resources: