Water - SC Ports Authority


In the Lowcountry, water is a way of life. It is a part of who we are and what we do. Our waterways support vital ecosystems, marine species, recreational activities and businesses. We all depend on clean water. As a maritime agency, S.C. Ports Authority relies on our waters to move cargo and support 1 in 10 jobs in the state.

S.C. Ports is committed to protecting and enhancing the health of South Carolina waterways. The Port is working to improve water quality, restore saltwater marshes and support marine ecosystems. These efforts represent a long-term commitment by S.C. Ports to ensure healthy waters for future generations of South Carolinians.

Drum Island restoration

S.C. Ports Authority created 22 acres of salt marsh in the middle of Charleston Harbor, fulfilling its environmental commitment to revert land on the southern end of Drum Island back into salt marsh.

More than 100,000 native species of marsh vegetation were planted to restore the area to its natural state. The resulting salt marsh improves water quality, supports surrounding ecosystems, and provides a nursery habitat for juvenile fish species and other marine life.

“Anyone walking or biking the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge can watch these plants grow over time,” SCPA’s Permitting Manager Mark Messersmith said. “The restoration of this salt marsh is significant to the Charleston Harbor watershed and is an important environmental commitment of the Port.”

Oyster restoration

S.C. Ports Authority has participated in the creation of 12 acres of new oyster beds around Charleston Harbor. A recent partnership with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources created an oyster bed on the eastern side of Drum Island within Charleston Harbor.

Oyster reefs are incredibly beneficial to our waterways. They provide habitat structure for small fish; protect and stabilize our shorelines; and greatly improve our water quality by filtering up to two gallons of water per hour per oyster. As an owner of vast amounts of shoreline in Charleston Harbor, SCPA looks for opportunities to partner with others to further oyster restoration efforts in the future.

Stormwater management

SCPA’s stormwater ponds and best management practices at Wando Welch Terminal captures runoff from rain, and the Port’s stormwater management system removes pollutants from the water before it reaches the Wando River. This effort reduces the amount of sediment and impurities flowing into our waterways.

Water monitoring

S.C. Ports is helping to monitor water quality in our waterways by contributing to the Charleston Waterkeeper’s bacteria monitoring efforts. S.C. Ports funds this work annually through the Community Giving Program. SCPA also contributes funds for the collection of water quality data through the Berkeley, Charleston, Dorchester Council of Governments.

Spill prevention

S.C. Ports’ environmental management systems prevent spills from occurring in the first place, as well as contain any spills if they do occur, helping to ensure contaminants do not enter our waters.

Operation Clean Sweep

S.C. Ports supports Operation Clean Sweep, a global commitment to ensure all handling of synthetic resins involves environmental stewardship and good housekeeping to protecting our waterways and environment.

Protecting marine mammals

S.C. Ports funds research to help marine mammals thrive in area waterways. The Port funded a research study with the Medical University of South Carolina and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to determine any potential contaminate uptake in dolphins in Charleston Harbor. The Port also funded research to determine the migration pattern of right whales. This five-year study with Wildlife Trust provided aerial surveys to contribute to the knowledge base of North Atlantic right whales’ behavior, locations and population status. This information can prevent the overlap of whale migration patterns and ship routes, helping this endangered species to maintain and grow populations over time.

Managing dredge material

S.C. Ports implemented a sediment suspension system at Columbus Street Terminal, which reduces the amount of sediment sitting near the terminal on the harbor floor. This system minimizes the frequency of dredging and the amount of dredge material moved out of the system. By allowing sediments to remain and disperse within the harbor, SCPA is supporting national efforts in regional sediment management, which strive to maintain or enhance the natural exchange of sediment within a watershed.