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BEAUFORT -- The old Broad River bridge will see new life as an artificial reef after the span now under construction opens.'
The new 1.6-mile bridge is to open sometime between October 2003 and March 2004. Beaufort County plans to leave in place 1,780 feet of the old bridge, on the Beaufort side of the river, to become a fishing pier.'
The fishing pier and a new boat launch on the Beaufort side of the river are part of a "fishing village" concept the county is trying to create on the site, county planning director Tony Criscitiello told the Beaufort County Council's Public Works Committee on Monday.'
The part of the old bridge to be removed will become part of any of three existing artificial reefs off the county's coast, the General Gordon Reef, the Beaufort 45-Foot Reef and the Fish America Reef. '
"People on Hilton Head and in Beaufort will all benefit from this," local sport fishing boat captain Frank Gibson told the committee. "For the environmentalists, (the bridge) won't go to the landfill."'
Balfour Beatty Construction's $105 million contract to widen S.C. 170 to four lanes between the Beaufort-Jasper Academy for Career Excellence and the city of Beaufort, requires the company to work with the state Department of Natural Resources to turn the old bridge into an artificial reef. '
The committee also learned Monday that three parcels needed to build the new boat launch may have been the site of a Sea Island cotton plantation between the late 1700s and early 1800s.'
The committee voted 6-0 to award a $75,329 contract to consultant Wilbur Smith Associates to perform archaeological excavations at the site, as part of its design work on the new boat launch. Wilbur Smith Associates will use a subcontractor specializing in archaeological excavations.'
The three parcels were part of what was called Ellis Plantation, according to a proposal from one of the potential subcontractors, TRC Garrow Associates of Columbia.'
"The area to be impacted includes two concentrations of significant historic deposits, one dating to circa 1795 and the other to circa 1828. Artifacts from both indicate low-status, almost certainly slave, occupations," wrote William Green of TRC Garrow. Green wrote that the sites may contain "obvious expressions of African ethnicity."'
Klink said the excavations would not stop the construction of the new boat launch.'
"They document what was there, and then remove or cover it up," he told the committee. "It's not a job-stopper."