The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette correct all errors of fact. If you see an error in this article, please call the city desk at 843-706-8139. Corrections and clarifications will appear in this space.
Web sites may link directly to search results and individual articles without permission.
Up to one paragraph of text may be included from an article as long as full attribution is given and the attribution links back to the full article.
To republish more than one paragraph of text, please contact us for permission.
Bluffton began part one of a two-phase project Monday that aims to reduce runoff fouling Verdier Cove and the May River.
Bob Fletcher, Bluffton's assistant town manager of engineering, said clearing drainage ditches along U.S. 278 between S.C. 46 and Sheridan Park Circle will redirect stormwater from the May north to the Colleton River. That is the natural path the water should take, he said. Officials hope the work will decrease bacteria and pollutants in the May River.
"What we're really trying to do is remove any blockage in the original drainage pattern that has accumulated over the years," Fletcher said.
He said the work does not include digging new ditches, but simply clearing old ones.
Jimmy McIntire, a member of two committees formed to study pollution in the May, said the town has known for more than two years that the amount of water flowing into Verdier Cove was "inappropriate." "If it's as simple as clearing out ditches, then why did it take two and a half years (to start the work)?" McIntire asked.
The town's drainage study was completed last year. The cost of the work has not been determined, town officials said.
Town studies calculate that runoff draining into the cove increased 130 percent since the development of the Bluffton Park, Red Cedar Place and Hidden Lakes neighborhoods.
The studies indicated too much freshwater was flowing into the May, lowering salinity levels, which leads to higher bacteria levels. To redirect the water, town officials said clogged ditches must be cleared, and a 500-foot logging road across a 9.65-acre nature preserve near Bluffton Park must be removed.
The road was removed this summer by QDS, developer of the 615-acre, mixed-use development.
Now, the town is focusing its ditch-clearing efforts on U.S. 278, south toward Red Cedar Street, Fletcher said.
"By doing this maintenance -- in phases -- we'll be able to evaluate what impact it had," Fletcher said, "and as we continue, we'll evaluate the flow. We're hoping, at the end of the day, that it does improve the situation."
The second phase will evaluate the effectiveness of the first and produce additional ways to cut runoff into the cove, he said.
Bluffton Mayor Lisa Sulka said she is hopeful that ditch-clearing project is going to have some instant visual results.
"I was frustrated," Sulka said of the delays, "but it's just been a process of trying to figure out where exactly the drainage is coming from. These are good steps we're taking. We're not just talking about it; we're doing it."
Fletcher told town council Tuesday the project should take about three weeks to complete and cost less than $50,000, about 25 percent of the town's original $200,000 phase-one construction estimate.
Town Council member Charlie Wetmore said the maintenance costs of phase two will be determined based on the results of the first phase.
"The pace has been slow for the past two years," Wetmore said of repair efforts. "We've been trying to get it going. And now, all the studies and measurements have been completed, and we'll finally have an immediate, positive effect. I am thrilled."