Army Corps: Crucial McClellanville, Breach Inlet dredging in works for Intracoastal Waterway
Aug 23 2015 12:01 am
Jeremy Creek in McClellanville will likely be dredged after the Army Corps of Engineers announces the details of a contract in a few weeks.
The picturesque, historic village of McClellanville, which depends on Jeremy Creek for its commercial fishing livelihood, is facing a crisis because the tributary is in such bad shape.
“Our creek is just a disaster right now, frankly. Some of these extra low tides, the sides of the creek are almost touching. The bigger boats can hardly move at all except from half-tide up,” Mayor Rutledge Leland said.
The Breach Inlet bridge links Sullivan’s Island (right) and the Isle of Palms.
Enlarge The Breach Inlet bridge links Sullivan’s Island (right) and the Isle of Palms. File/Staff
“Beyond critical” was how he described creek conditions.
“It’s reached an emergency situation,” he said.
But help could be on the way, he said.
Leland said he came away from a recent meeting with Army Corps of Engineers officials optimistic that the town would see its share of $2.4 million recently awarded to the Corps Charleston District for Intracoastal Waterway dredging. The creek is considered part of the waterway.
“It was very good news. I left there feeling very good. It sounds like we are going to be a part of the package and it will just be a matter of time before they (Corps) are here. Probably November or December before we see a dredge here,” Leland said.
The Corps’ top priority for waterway dredging in this area has been identified as the stretch from Isle of Palms Connector to Ben Sawyer Bridge, particularly in the area of Breach Inlet between IOP and Sullivan’s Island.
The waterway condition in that area has caused the IOP Marina to take a big hit financially. Boaters go offshore and re-enter the waterway at Charleston Harbor because the local stretch has acquired a reputation as one of the worst areas of the Intracoastal from Virginia to Florida, officials said.
In 2013, a Mount Pleasant woman was injured on the waterway near the inlet when a 44-foot trawler drawing 3 feet 10 inches of water hit bottom. The impact caused her to fall. In the emergency room, doctors determined she had a fractured vertebrae, a concussion and a broken rib. She spent two nights in the hospital, officials said.
On Thursday, Corps officials said that McClellanville could benefit from the latest round of federal funding for waterway dredging in this area. Charleston County has agreed to contribute another $500,000 to the cause, which would bring the total available for waterway channel maintenance to about $3 million. First, though, the federal government must agree to accept the county funds, officials said.
Corps officials said two companies bid for Intracoastal dredging here, and there is an apparent low bidder. Corps Charleston District spokeswoman Glenn Jeffries said she could not discuss specifics of the project without putting it in jeopardy. Details will be finalized in the first week or two of September, officials said.
“Until the contract is awarded, we really can’t say the price, we really can’t say exactly what work will be accomplished, but based on the (bid) opening, there is a better than average chance that we will get to do something in McClellanville,” said Brian Williams, who is the Corps district chief for programs and civil projects.
Leland said the creek was last dredged about 10 years ago. The tributary was created from mud flats as part of the original waterway project, he said.
When the tide comes in, the mile-long creek that leads to McClellanville’s two seafood processing plants is passable for the big boats, but even then conditions are not ideal.
“It pretty much has to be on the (high) tide, but it’s getting to be more of a struggle every day,” Leland said.
How much the problem is costing the town has not been determined, he said, but one study showed that McClellanville-based commercial fishing pumps millions into the economy, he said.
The last substantial funding the Army Corps received for waterway dredging was in 2009 through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Some states, such as Florida and North Carolina, have dedicated funding for waterway maintenance. The Florida Inland Navigation District collects about $20 million annually to pay for waterway maintenance in 12 counties. North Carolina funds waterway maintenance through boater registration fees and the gas tax.
For now, trawlers push their way through shallow water in Jeremy Creek. At low tide, the creek is a muddy mess that idles many boats for long stretches of the day, Leland said.
“The only thing that is keeping it (creek) open now is the (boat) traffic. They’re stirring the mud up. The (Army) Corps calls it ‘agitation dredging.’ That’s the only reason we have any water at all right now,” he said.
Reach Prentiss Findlay at 937-5711 or Twitter.com/prentissfindlay.
Click Here To View the Cruisers’ Net’s “AICW Problem Stretches” Listing For the AICW North of Ben Sawyer Bridge to Isle of Palms Bridge
Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To This AICW Problem Stretch